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17 July 2017

 

Young women who have survived cancer face a 40% reduced chance of achieving pregnancy, according to a major Scottish study.

The researchers say it is the first time the overall impact of cancer on female fertility has been estimated.

The findings were reported to the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Geneva, Switzerland.

Researchers at Edinburgh University studied the fate of women diagnosed with cancer in Scotland over a 30-year period.

Out of 23,201 women under the age of 39 who survived cancer, there were 6,627 pregnancies - 38% less than would have been expected.

Women who experienced leukaemia, cervical cancer or breast cancer faced the greatest risk of not achieving pregnancy.

The researchers said rates of pregnancy improved toward the end of the period - in the years after 2005.

Researcher Professor Richard Anderson said that improved cancer survival meant that greater attention needed paying to preserving the fertility of female patients.

He said: 'This analysis provides the first robust, population-based evidence of the effect of cancer and its treatment on subsequent pregnancy across the full reproductive age range.

'The major impact on pregnancy after some common cancers highlights the need for enhanced strategies to preserve fertility in girls and young women.'

He added: 'They emphasise the need to consider the possible effects on fertility in girls and women with a new cancer diagnosis. The implications of the diagnosis and planned treatment and, where appropriate, options for fertility preservation should be discussed with the patient and her family.

'Even for patients considered at low risk of infertility as a result of treatment, a fertility discussion is recommended before treatment begins.'

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