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New tool guides doctors to save cancer patients' fertility
Date:2/26/2009

Women's Hospital and a basic science researcher at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Younger patients in particular are not benefiting from fertility preservation options. A new national survey of pediatric oncologists showed that more than half of them are not using fertility preservation techniques that are available at most medical centers for their adolescent patients. The survey was conducted by Robert Brannigan, M.D., associate professor of urology at the Feinberg School and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"Adolescent oncology patients are at the same risk as adults to become permanently infertile as a result of their cancer or cancer treatment, but they are not getting what they need to save their fertility," Brannigan said.

When a young patient is diagnosed with cancer, doctors feel like it is a medical emergency, even when there may be time to consider fertility before treatment begins, Jeruss explained. "We aren't used to taking a step back to look at the big picture of patients' lives after they survive cancer," she said.

"Clinicians need to break through old practice patterns," Jeruss said. "In the past, if I saw a young woman with breast cancer, I would be focused on getting her into surgery and through chemotherapy and radiation. Now we have a better sense that with the improvements we've made in cancer management, many of our young patients with cancer are going on to survive and live healthy long lives. We need to do everything possible so patients can look forward to a life that looks as much like the life they had planned on before the day they were diagnosed."

The survival rate of children with cancer is nearly 80 percent in the United States. Approximately 10,700 children were diagnosed with cancer in 2008. In addition, there are 140,000 young adults (men and women younger than 45 years old) who face a cancer diagnosis each year.

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Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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