World Cancer Day February 4th 2017

“On World Cancer Day, we have an opportunity to collectively examine cancer control strategies to identify winning formulas that will accelerate progress. The goal for all of us is to ensure fewer people develop cancer, more people are successfully treated and that there is a better quality of life for people during treatment and beyond.”

Heather Bryant, VP, Cancer Control, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

Saturday 4th February is World Cancer Day. At the Agora Clinic, we are supporting this by spreading awareness of the fertility preservation service we offer to cancer patients, in the form of egg, embryo and sperm freezing.

It is not widely known that some cancer treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery can affect people’s fertility. Although these treatments can be lifesaving – it can be hard to think beyond the diagnosis and be aware of the long-term side effects of treatment. We know that to most patients, survival is paramount and there is a lot to think about when you are diagnosed with cancer. However, it can be comforting to know that should you find yourself unable to have a family, you have a backup plan.

Becky Leach, 36, from Hemel Hempstead, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2015, she says:

‘Your head can feel all over the place after a breast cancer diagnosis, but as a young woman it is so important you get the chance, to pause and think and talk about your future fertility’ – Breast Cancer Care

Our job at the Agora, is to help bring awareness to this matter; as more patients are surviving cancer, more are also having to live with the repercussions of treatment such as infertility. Often there is only a tiny window of opportunity to freeze sperm, eggs or embryos before fertility damaging treatment starts. Thankfully in Sussex the NHS offers fertility preservation at the Agora and we have a fast track service to help and support cancer patients who decide this is something they would like to do.

We are working on improving the information patients receive about fertility preservation at the time they are diagnosed so that they can make an informed decision about what they wish to do. We never advise fertility preservation if there is a chance it might delay the start of cancer treatment but thankfully that is rarely the case.

If you know somebody who could benefit from this service, or who has had fertility preservation, please get in touch by contacting info@agoraclinic.co.uk.  We would love to hear your thoughts.

Scientific studies have shown that ….

  • 28% of younger women with breast cancer would like to have a child or complete their family after treatment.
  • In breast cancer patients, there is approximately a 4-week period between surgery and chemotherapy during which fertility-sparing procedures can be safely performed.
  • Of 657 young breast cancer survivors, 57% recalled substantial concern at diagnosis about becoming infertile after treatment.

(Studies carried out by Breast Cancer Care)

Breast Cancer does not stop you from having children in the future. Even if the tumour is sensitive to oestrogen (oestrogen positive), fertility drugs can be tailored to keep the oestrogen levels in the blood very low during the treatment to harvest eggs

  • Seven studies from five countries found that less than 30% of men bank sperm before anti-cancer treatment begins.
  • In a study of nearly 400 patients under the age of 35, 8% said they would not accept chemotherapy if it would reduce their fertility.
  • 39% of over 1000 women diagnosed with various cancers (leukaemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast and gastrointestinal cancers) aged between 18 to 40 years could not recall fertility discussions taking place prior to them starting their cancer therapy. Only 5% of this large group of women were referred to fertility specialists and 4% pursued having eggs or embryos frozen.

References

Vânia Gonçalves & Gwendolyn P. Quinn (2016) Review of fertility preservation issues for young women with breast cancer, Human Fertility, 19:3, 152-165, DOI: 10.1080/14647273.2016.1193228

Allan Anthony Pacey & Christine Eiser (2014) The importance of fertility preservation in cancer patients, Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy, 14:5, 487-489, DOI: 10.1586/14737140.2014.883283