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Teens with cancer missing out on future fertility chance

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Teenager cancer patients are missing out on the chance to protect their ability to have children in the future because they are not being told about the options, a leading fertility nurse has warned.

Specialist nurse Valerie Peddie said it was vital young patients with a good prognosis had the chance to discuss their fertility before starting cancer treatment.

“It is essential that these issues are raised and discussed by healthcare staff”

Valerie Peddie

But at the moment this does not always happen, she told delegates at the Royal College of Nursing’s International Centenary Conference in London.

She noted it was especially the case for teenage girls. While young men were routinely offered sperm banking services, research showed few young women were given the chance to discuss ways to preserve their fertility because the process is more complicated.

Ms Peddie, who is senior charge nurse at the Aberdeen Centre for Reproductive Medicine, said that to date cancer treatment had understandably tended to focus on survival.

But treatment had progressed to a point “where many patients have the time to explore their options and think about life after cancer”, she said.

Meanwhile, advances in technology meant young women now had the same opportunities as young men to preserve their fertility.

“Deciding whether to have children is a central part of many lives, and no one should be denied this opportunity because they were unaware of their options,” she said.

“Teenage patients are unlikely to have even considered their future fertility or know it could be impacted by their cancer treatment, therefore, it is essential that these issues are raised and discussed by healthcare staff,” she added.

The RCN said it was currently producing guidelines to help manage the fertility of people who have delayed having children, either through choice or illness and treatment.

The RCN International Centenary Conference is taking place at London’s QEII Centre from 22-23 November.

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