-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Despite having an increased
risk of infertility, many childhood cancer survivors can become
pregnant, a new study shows.
Nearly two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors who tried to
conceive for at least one year without success eventually did
become pregnant, the study found. This is comparable to the rate of
eventual pregnancy among all women who are diagnosed as
"Most women think that if they had cancer as a child, then they'll never have children. It turns out that many of them can get pregnant. It just might be a little harder," study senior author Dr. Lisa Diller, chief medical officer of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said in a center news release.
The researchers looked at data from more than 3,500 sexually
active female survivors of childhood cancer, aged 18 to 39, and a
control group of more than 1,300 of their female siblings who did
not have childhood cancer. Nearly 16 percent of the childhood
cancer survivors were infertile, and nearly 13 percent of these
women tried to conceive for at least one year without success. The
remainder of the survivors in the infertile group had ovarian
failure and may not have even attempted pregnancy.
Nearly 11 percent of the women in the control group were
infertile. This means that the survivors of childhood cancer had
about a 50 percent higher risk of infertility than those in the
control group, according to the study, published July 13 in
Among the childhood cancer survivors who had been trying
unsuccessfully to get pregnant for at least a year, 64 percent
conceived after, on average, another six months, compared with an
average of five months for infertile women in the control group who
Women whose childhood cancer was treated with alkylating agent
chemotherapy or high-dose radiation to the abdomen or pelvis had
the highest risk of infertility.
The study also found that only 42 percent of cancer survivors
who sought treatment for infertility were prescribed medication,
compared with 75 percent in the control group. Both groups -- 69
percent of survivors and 73 percent in the control group -- were
similarly likely to seek medical help for their infertility.
"What we found delivers a really nice message to clinicians. If you have a patient who is a childhood cancer survivor and is self-reporting clinical infertility, the chances are good that she will become pregnant," said Diller, the medical director of the Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
"Women who have a history of childhood cancer treatment should consider themselves likely to be fertile. However, it might be important to see an expert sooner rather than later if a desired pregnancy doesn't happen within the first six months," she advised.
The Nemours Foundation has more about the
effects of childhood cancer treatment on
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