Fertility specialist Dr. Irene Su recently spoke at a national workshop presented jointly by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, which took place on October 22, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
As a leading specialist in oncofertility, Dr. Su helps patients who wish to have a family after they have undergone cancer-related treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. The workshop assembled researchers from various disciplines to discuss advancements in the area of fertility preservation.
Dr. Su’s presentation discussed the understanding of how doctors measure fertility potential in young cancer survivors. As of right now, doctors have reliable measurements from blood and ultrasounds to help predict fertility in infertile couples, but researchers still need a lot more data from young cancer survivors.
As an infertility specialist, Dr. Su seeks to understand the time frame in which fertility is most likely after cancer. “The window of fertility in many young women who have undergone cancer treatments is shorter than in those who have not undergone cancer treatments. But how much shorter is something we don’t know.” Dr. Su explains that if this information is better understood for cancer patients, it would help young women who are newly diagnosed with cancer to decide whether to undergo immediate fertility preservation measures at the time of their diagnosis.
Understanding the window of fertility is also important for young women who have finished cancer treatment. Dr. Su has found that young cancer patients want to meet the life milestones, such as finding the right partner or establishing their career, before starting a family. But cancer survivors often reach these life milestones later, due to the time spent in treatment, while their fertility windows close sooner. She continues, “A greater understanding of this window informs the patient, their family, and their providers as to when is the best time to attempt pregnancy and when to seek assisted methods, including fertility preservation treatments after cancer.”
“The great news is that cancer treatments are advancing. There are more targeted therapies available that are specific to tumors and may not compromise a woman’s ovarian reserve as severely as older treatments. However, we still have a lot to understand about how many new treatments affect a patient’s eggs,” she concludes.
For women who have received cancer treatment as adults or during childhood, many fertility options still remain. Patients should discuss their complete medical history with their fertility specialist to determine the best course of action to undertake in order to maintain the greatest chance of fertility.