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Fertility Preservation Issues Take Spotlight in Focus Under Forty™ Series

Sep 07, 2011

“When I was told I would lose my fertility, it was devastating. But I don’t think you really grasp it fully because there’s so much going on—you’re trying to beat cancer and you’re fighting for your life. However, as you start to heal and you realize what’s happened, it’s a very hard pill to swallow,” said Tamika Felder, a 10-year cancer survivor and Focus Under Forty video participant. Ms. Felder’s first-hand experience with cancer and her resulting infertility inspired her to become founder and CEO of Tamika & Friends, Inc., a patient advocacy site for women with cervical cancer.

Studies support Ms. Felder’s experience, finding that for young adult survivors of cancer, fertility and family-building issues are significant concerns, as are ongoing feelings of regret and distress associated with infertility. In the face of a cancer diagnosis, however, many young patients are more focused on getting treatment as quickly as possible, without being informed about the late effects of therapy and how it may affect their ability to reproduce at a later date.

“As a young adult with cancer, you have more resources now when it comes to fertility preservation,” said Ms. Felder. “But if you don’t have the right medical team and support, you’ll still have that person who isn’t informed of all of the options related to preserving their fertility and will end up in a place of regret.”

In 2006, ASCO developed recommendations regarding fertility preservation in patients with cancer. The recommendations state that oncologists should “address the possibility of infertility with patients treated during their reproductive years...[and] refer interested and appropriate patients to reproductive specialists.” However, communicating with patients regarding fertility preservation is an area in which oncologists need to improve, according to composite data from the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®).

ASCO University® modules highlight issues, challenges
Building upon these recommendations and findings, ASCO University® has recently developed two case-based educational modules in collaboration with LIVESTRONG—one geared toward males and the other toward females—that highlight key issues and challenges facing patients and their oncologists when considering fertility preservation.

These interactive modules include cases of real patients and accompanying slides and audio commentary by expert faculty. Also included are videos of cancer survivors discussing their personal experiences with fertility issues related to their cancer diagnosis, including an interview with Ms. Felder, who shares the following: “At the time of my diagnosis [10 years ago], I really didn’t know anyone else out there who was in my position—young and single and wanting to preserve their fertility. But my situation doesn’t have to be anyone’s situation now; there are so many more resources available to patients related to fertility preservation these days.”

For free access to the Focus Under Forty™ Fertility Preservation modules, visit university.asco.org/FocusUnder40.

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