Although the majority of colon cancer cases occur in individuals aged 50 years and older, rates of colon cancer incidence in the younger-than-50 population are on the rise. Therefore, there are several important considerations for this population that do not impact their older counterparts - fertility preservation among women is one of them.
In 2006, the American Society of Clinical Oncology first established guidelines on fertility preservation in cancer patients. The ASCO updated these guidelines in May 2013 to account for the growing need for younger patient education on this issue.
The update stated that, "as part of education and informed consent before cancer therapy, health care providers should address the possibility of infertility with patients treated during their reproductive years (or with parents or guardians of children) and be prepared to discuss fertility preservation options and/or to refer all potential patients to appropriate reproductive specialists."
However, more recent data suggest that the guidelines are not widely followed. A 2012 study indicated that discussions about fertility risks associated with colon cancer treatment occur infrequently among young adults with newly diagnosed colon cancer, but that these discussions occur more frequently in younger patients undergoing radiation.
If you are a young patient diagnosed with colon cancer, fertility risk is an important topic for you to discuss with your treatment team. Fight Colorectal Cancer provides the following list of questions to address with your doctor before deciding on a treatment plan:
- What are my options to preserve my fertility?
- How will my treatment plan affect my plans to have children in the future?
- Will this treatment make me infertile? And if so, for how long?
- Will my fertility preservation have any effect on my treatments for my cancer?
- Are there any effects my treatment may have on my ability to carry a child in the future?
- Can you refer me to a fertility specials who has experience in treating cancer patients?