New Guidelines for Preserving Fertility in Cancer Patients

Yale Ob/Gyn professor Pasquale Patrizio together with a national and international group of colleagues have developed general guidelines targeted to oncologists on how to introduce the concept of fertility preservation in both male and female cancer patients.

Published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the article by Patrizio and his colleagues reviewed all the published literature from 1987 to 2005 to evaluate whether oncologists had counseled cancer patients about the risk of infertility associated with their treatment and fertility preservation options.

“We’ve found that cancer patients think of the possibility of losing fertility, but they don’t pursue it if their oncologists don’t bring it up,” said Patrizio, professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences and Director of the Yale Fertility Center. “Hopefully, now that we have the guidelines in print, we will see a rising number of cancer patients exploring the various options to preserve fertility.”

Patrizio said the main interest of oncologists is treating the cancer. In the fight to eradicate the cancer, oncologists are not thinking about fertility after treatment.

Patrizio said oncologists and reproductive endocrinologists are working on the same patient with different objectives. The oncologist wants to cure the cancer and the reproductive endocrinologist wants to preserve fertility.

“This paper provides a link between these two disciplines,” he said. “Educating clinical oncologists to advise their patients about the availability of fertility preservation options will result in the patient having a better quality of life after the cancer treatment is complete.”

“By talking to patients about options to preserve fertility at the earliest phase of the treatment plan, we are providing a positive prognosis for outcome,” said Patrizio. “It reinforces the positive message of hope. This is truly an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to care.”

Journal of Clinical Oncology: early online June 2006

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326