Dr. Anne Katz regularly has conversations about teen fertility. As an oncology nurse and fertility counsellor, Katz works with young cancer patients and their families to determine the best approach for preserving fertility following treatment.
“It can be very challenging for these young patients,” explains Katz. “First, they receive a cancer diagnosis and are immediately in shock and scared about whether they will even graduate high school or college, and then they’re put in a position where they have to make a decision about having a family.”
Finding the best treatment option for a young person diagnosed with cancer is the top priority. Unfortunately, treatment can prove toxic to patients’ reproductive organs and can lead to fertility problems down the road. By involving practitioners like Katz from the outset of treatment, medical professionals can address the subject in a way that makes sense for patients.
“The pain I felt when I heard that my life-saving cancer treatment would leave me infertile is impossible to describe,” says Bronwen Grand-Sheridan, a young Canadian cancer survivor.
“If it’s routine to give young patients the news that treatment will affect their ability to have children, it seems reasonable to expect the medical system to weave in additional psychological support to the existing protocols.”
Although all adolescents and young adults facing a new cancer diagnosis should be provided with access to fertility counselling, a recent report by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer found that the number of fertility clinics in the country is limited. More experts like Katz treating adolescents and young adults at cancer centres would help address this issue.
Learn more about fertility and other challenges facing adolescents and young adults with cancer at www.systemperformance.ca/aya-nc.