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Fertility procedures do not delay cancer treatment, study finds

November 13, 2009 | 10:11 am

Frozenegg Women under 40 who are diagnosed with breast cancer often face the additional burden of losing their fertility due to the cancer treatment. If treatment is likely to cause future infertility, women may wish to undergo a procedure to harvest eggs to preserve future childbearing options.

A study published this week reassures women and their doctors that fertility procedures can be done in an orderly way that should not delay breast cancer treatment. The findings show the key to timely fertility procedures depends on all the parties involved -- the patient, cancer surgeon, medical oncologist and reproductive specialists -- working together and communicating effectively.

"The burden of facing premature menopause adds to the stress experienced by young cancer survivors," the lead author of the study, Dr. Lynn Westphal of Stanford University, said in a news release. "Our study shows that these procedures, when expedited and appropriately timed, do not delay cancer treatment."

The researchers identified 82 women younger than 40 who were diagnosed with breast cancer. Nineteen of the women underwent egg retrieval, while 63 did not. For the women who underwent egg retrieval, an average of 71 days elapsed between initial diagnosis to chemotherapy compared with 67 days in the women who did not have egg retrieval. The time elapsed between surgery and chemotherapy was also similar in the two groups.

The average age of the women who had underwent egg retrieval was 37, and most of them had not previously given birth. The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Dr. David Diaz, medical director of the West Coast Fertility Centers in Fountain Valley lifts a canister containing frozen human eggs stored in liquid nitrogen. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times.