Female cancer survivors are a third less likely to get pregnant

Rates of cancer survival are increasing in young men and women, making fertility preservation prior to treatment a priority in fertility clinics.
By Amy Wallace  |  July 3, 2017 at 11:07 AM
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July 3 (UPI) -- Research shows that female cancer survivors are one-third less likely to become pregnant compared to women in the general population.

A large population study linked all cancers diagnosed in Scotland between 1981 and 2012 to subsequent pregnancies, revealing that women and girls younger than 39 who were cancer survivors were 38 percent less likely to become pregnant compared to the general population.

"This analysis provides the first robust, population-based evidence of the effect of cancer and its treatment on subsequent pregnancy across the full reproductive age range," Professor Richard Anderson of the MRC Center for Reproductive Health, Queen's Medical Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said in a press release. "The major impact on pregnancy after some common cancers highlights the need for enhanced strategies to preserve fertility in girls and young women."

The study cross-linked 23,201 female cancer survivors from the Scottish Cancer Registry with hospital discharge records showed 6,627 pregnancies in cancer survivors. The number was compared to the expected 11,000 expected pregnancies in the general population.

Approximately 20.6 percent of the cancer survivors got pregnant for the first time after diagnosis compared to 38.7 percent in the control group.

The type of cancer diagnosis and treatment had an effect on the chance of pregnancy as well.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia had lower rates of pregnancy after treatment between 1981 and 1988 but higher rates of pregnancy after treatment more recently between 2005 and 2012, suggesting the impact of certain cancer treatments affect on pregnancy was reduced.

The results of the study, which were presented at the 33rd ESHRE annual meeting, showed the need for clinicians to advise women about the impact of pregnancy issues after treatment.

"They emphasize the need to consider the possible effects on fertility in girls and women with a new cancer diagnosis," Anderson said. "The implications of the diagnosis and planned treatment and, where appropriate, options for fertility preservation should be discussed with the patient and her family. Even for patients considered at low risk of infertility as a result of treatment, a fertility discussion is recommended before treatment begins."

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