Young cancer patients can plan for kids

Oct. 25, 2011 at 12:17 AM
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CHICAGO, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- When a woman, man or teenager is diagnosed with cancer, there is only a brief window to preserve fertility before treatment, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Ralph R. Kazer -- a reproductive endocrinologist at Northwestern Memorial and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago -- said often when a cancer patient is first diagnosed he or she is not looking into the future and thinking about starting a family.

Five years ago, Northwestern's Fertility Preservation Program had oncologists partner with reproductive endocrinologists to offer options such as emergency in vitro fertilization prior to cancer treatment because chemotherapy can compromise fertility.

"Many younger patients with cancer are surviving and living healthy long lives. It's our job to do everything possible so patients can look forward to a life that looks as much like the life they had planned on before the day they were diagnosed," Teresa Woodruff, chief of the division of fertility preservation in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern, said in a statement.

For example, for a woman facing cancer, physicians harvest her eggs, fertilize them with her partner's sperm and freeze them, Kazer said. This outpatient procedure usually can take one month, but a cancer patient could get it done at Northwestern in two weeks to expedite cancer treatment, Kazer said.

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