ASCO Updates Guidelines on Preserving Fertility in People Diagnosed With Cancer

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The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has put out new guidelines on preserving fertility in people diagnosed with cancer. The new ASCO guidelines update guidelines put out in 2006 and consider freezing eggs a standard practice and make it clear that fertility preservation can be discussed by any healthcare provider, including oncologists, surgeons, nurses, social workers, and psychologists.

The guidelines were published in the July 1, 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read “Fertility Preservation for Patients With Cancer: American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Practice Guideline Update.”

ASCO is a national organization of oncologists and other cancer care providers. ASCO guidelines give doctors recommendations for treatments that are supported by much credible research and experience.

The ASCO experts based the new guidelines on their review of research done between March 2006 and January 2013. Key recommendations in the guidelines are:

  • Healthcare providers should discuss the risk of infertility and fertility preservation options with people who will be undergoing cancer treatment.
  • The healthcare providers who can discuss fertility preservation include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, urologists, hematologists, pediatric oncologists, surgeons, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other healthcare providers who aren’t physicians.
  • Fertility preservation should be discussed as early as possible, before treatment starts, and should be noted in a person’s health records.
  • Fertility preservation should be discussed with everyone who has gone through puberty and with the parents or guardians of children.
  • Sperm banking is the only way to preserve fertility in men.
  • Freezing eggs and embryos are standard ways to preserve fertility in women. For women who will be having radiation therapy to the pelvic area, the ovaries may be surgically moved out of the radiation field.

If you're a premenopausal woman diagnosed with breast cancer, the ability to have children after breast cancer treatment may be important to you. Still, it's very likely that a breast cancer diagnosis and the need to start treatment as soon as possible may push thoughts about future fertility (and many other things) to the back of your mind.

But while you and your doctor are planning your treatment is the best time to figure out how specific treatments might affect your fertility and to learn about steps you can take to improve your chances of having a child in the future.

If you're about to start breast cancer treatment and being able to have a child in the future is important to you, be sure to tell your doctor. Ask your doctor how any treatments being considered could affect your future fertility. If the treatments that are best for you could cause fertility problems, ask your doctor about steps you can take to preserve your fertility. You also may want to ask for a referral to an infertility specialist.

You can learn more about breast cancer treatment and infertility issues in the Fertility and Pregnancy Issues During and After Breast Cancer pages.

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