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Fertility advice for breast cancer patients found lacking

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Breast cancer patients are not being referred to specialists to discuss how their condition could affect fertility, research by charity Breast Cancer Care has found.

The research found that 88 per cent of women with a breast cancer diagnosis had not seen a fertility specialist, despite evidence that the disease can severely affect the possibility of having children. The charity estimates this has left 5000 young women without fertility care. The research also indicated that up to 60 per cent of women are unaware that breast cancer has an effect on fertility.

The charity also surveyed 50 oncologists and other specialists, and discovered that 35 per cent do not tell patients at diagnosis how treatment could affect their fertility. The research also found that clinicians are failing to adequately explain fertility options to patients so they can make informed decisions about their future fertility, and 26 per cent of clinicians reported that they do not have a system set up to direct patients to fertility clinics.

Grete Brauten-Smith, Breast Cancer Care's clinical nurse specialist for younger women with breast cancer, said: 'Some cancer treatments can cause infertility. A fertility specialist will be able to talk breast cancer patients through their choices before starting treatment and see if freezing their eggs or embryos is a viable option for them. The worry is that the results of our research are reflective of practice UK-wide. A consultation with a fertility expert might not mean a guaranteed pregnancy but we must ensure women have the chance of considering their options. Only then can they make an empowered decision about their future fertility.'

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