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Talking about fertility following a cancer diagnosis

02 Oct 2019 by Krystal Barter
Talking about fertility following a cancer diagnosis

No matter what your life situation, discussing your fertility can be hard. Regardless of whether you’ve recently met someone, you’re single and exploring new relationships, or you are in a marriage and thinking about starting a family, weighing up your fertility options at each stage in your life is advised. This will help ensure that if a surprise cancer diagnosis arrives, you are able to navigate any decisions armed with as much information as possible.

Despite the difficult nature of discussing fertility, it’s important to know the best ways to preserve and protect your fertility following a cancer diagnosis and before treatment begins.

While fertility is something your treatment team should discuss with you following diagnosis, as many as 47 percent of women are not spoken to about this following a cancer diagnosis.

The overwhelm caused by the diagnosis and subsequent information overload can cloud a woman’s ability to make decisions about her fertility. For some women, the thought of having children hadn’t even been on their radar and so being forced to make a fertility decision in a few days can lead to uncertainty and further stress.

Even if you are certain that you don’t want kids in the future, or that your family is already complete, it’s a good idea to speak with a fertility specialist or counsellor. They will encourage you to consider as many fertility options as possible based on your personalised treatment plan. This will ensure a number of options are open for you in the future, should your mind or situation change.

Decisions relating to fertility are entirely personal, and no decision in this situation is wrong.

If, following a cancer diagnosis, you are not offered the opportunity to see a fertility specialist prior to commencing treatment, ask your GP or cancer specialist to refer you to your local fertility clinic to ensure you are given all the information to make an informed and educated decision.

Some thought-starter questions are listed below to help prepare you for your initial appointment and can be used to steer the conversation with your fertility specialist. These are by no means exhaustive and to help guide your conversation.

  • Am I currently fertile?
  • What should I be doing about contraception?
  • What is the likely impact of breast cancer and its treatments on my future fertility?
  • If I become infertile, will it happen immediately?
  • Am I going to be able to fall pregnant naturally after treatment?
  • How long after treatment will I have to wait to see whether I am still fertile?
  • How likely is it that I will become pregnant after treatment?
  • Could a future pregnancy impact the recurrence of my cancer?
  • How can I preserve my fertility during treatment?
  • Do I have time to delay the cancer treatment to undergo fertility preservation treatment?
  • Are fertility drugs safe for me based on my cancer type?
  • Could fertility treatment impact the outcome of my cancer treatment?
  • I don’t have a long-term partner. What do I do about accessing sperm?
  • How much does fertility treatment cost?
  • What happens to the embryos that aren’t used?
  • What do I need to know if I decide not to use my own eggs?
  • Are there any known risks or associated benefits with having a child following cancer?
  • Do you have any breast cancer patients who have gone on to have children that I could connect with?
  • Can you tell me a bit about their stories?
  • Should I be worried about my future children’s health as a direct result of my treatments?
  • How long after treatment should I wait to try for children, if I am fertile?
  • Do you know of any clinical trials that I may be eligible for?

This content is brought to you in partnership with Conceive Please. 

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