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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Fertility an Issue for Breast Cancer Patients

Study Shows That Many Overestimate Their Risk of Early Menopause

11,000 Cases a Year continued...

In an effort to gain a better understanding of young patients' attitudes about fertility, Partridge and colleagues from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute surveyed 657 members of the breast cancer patient advocacy group Young Survival Coalition. All the women who participated in the survey were premenopausal and 40 years old or younger at diagnosis.

According to the survey, 57% of the patients reported being somewhat or very concerned about infertility, regardless of their age or disease stage and almost a third said such concerns influenced their decisions about treatment. While 72% reported discussing their fertility concerns with their oncologist, 26% said they did not feel these concerns were adequately addressed. The findings are reported in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Partridge says physicians and patients are often so focused on the cancer itself that quality-of-life issues such as future fertility may fall off the radar screen.

"Even if this is not of great concern to a woman when she is dealing with issues of survival it may certainly be a concern down the road when treatment is over," Partridge says.

She adds that the research highlights the need for more studies assessing the impact of current treatments on fertility. In addition to the treatment regimen a woman chooses, her age at diagnosis is a factor in her infertility risk.

Rosenberg, who is president of the Young Survival Coalition, says future fertility is one of the key concerns of patients seeking help from the advocacy group.

"We do see women diagnosed at later stages who are thrust into menopause in their 20s and early 30s,"she says. "But this research makes it clear that many women also overestimate their risk and it illustrates the importance of discussing this issue when deciding on a treatment."

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