Study finds female cancer survivors one-third less likely to conceive

fertility preservation

Cancer survivors are one-third less likely to conceive, according to a new landmark study. The findings were presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction by Professor Richard Anderson of the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health.
Data was analysed from 23,201 cancer survivors from the Scottish cancer registry, making it one of the largest studies of its kind. It showed just 6,627 women became pregnant, compared to an expected 11,000 pregnancies taken from a comparable, controlled matched group of non-cancer patients.

Now, experts are calling for enhanced strategies to be developed in order to preserve the fertility of young women.

Understanding the results of the study

The findings of the study showed cancer survivors do have a significantly lower chance of getting pregnant. For those who had never been pregnant before undergoing treatment, just 20.6% went on to achieve pregnancy, meaning women who do develop cancer are only half as likely as non-cancer survivors, to become pregnant.

However, the study also revealed something particularly interesting. It showed specific types of cancer were more likely to affect fertility, but the chances of pregnancy had improved over the years. Breast, cervical cancer and leukaemia, are all more likely to cause problems with fertility; though advancements in techniques and the drugs used during chemotherapy, have improved the chances for cancer survivors to conceive.

The study only shows pregnancy rates for women who chose to become pregnant. Many of the cancer survivors involved in the study may have decided not to try to get pregnant. This means although it can give some idea of how chemotherapy and cancer can affect the likelihood of pregnancy, it doesn’t provide a full picture.

The role of fertility preservation

While cancer has become an incredibly common disease, survival rates have improved drastically over the years. This means cancer survival rates in young men and women are constantly increasing. As the study shows cancer survivors have less chance of becoming pregnant, it highlights the need for fertility preservation.

Young girls need to be told about the risks cancer has in terms of fertility, allowing them to make necessary preparations if they do want to become pregnant someday. It’s not only cancer survivors who could benefit from fertility preservation either. Many young women today prefer to focus on their careers before they decide to have children. It has become common for women to hold off starting a family until they are in their 30s or 40s. This can be problematic as fertility does decrease naturally over time, making it much more difficult to conceive in later life.

Some couples are also choosing to undergo fertility preservation simply because they aren’t ready to have a baby yet, but they do want one in the future. There are numerous reasons why fertility preservation is often chosen, but more certainly needs to be done to raise awareness of the issues conditions such as cancer can have on fertility.

Overall, the study does help to raise awareness and show how fertility preservation could help cancer survivors achieve a successful pregnancy. However, more in-depth studies would be required to reveal the full extent of the problem.