Washington: Women who survived childhood cancer face an increased risk of infertility.
However, according to a new study by clinical researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children`s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and Brigham and Women`s Hospital, nearly two-thirds of those who tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for at least a year eventually conceived.
This is comparable to the rate of eventual pregnancy among all clinically infertile women.
"Most women think that if they had cancer as a child, then they`ll never have children. It turns out that many of them can get pregnant. It just might be a little harder," senior author Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer of Dana-Farber/Boston Children`s and medical director of the David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said.
It is the first large-scale study of female childhood cancer survivors that examines outcomes for those who experienced infertility, as defined by the typical clinical definition of infertility (attempting to conceive for a year or more without success).
Overall, 15.9 percent of women who survived childhood cancer were affected by infertility, with 12.9 percent trying to conceive for at least one year without success.
The remainder of survivors included in the infertile group had ovarian failure and may not have even attempted pregnancy.
In a comparison group comprised of sisters of childhood cancer survivors, 10.8 percent experienced infertility.
This translates to a roughly 50 percent higher risk of infertility among the survivors of childhood cancer.
The new study is based on data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, a cohort study of five-year survivors from 26 institutions who were under 21 when diagnosed with cancer between 1970 and 1986.
Researchers studied 3,531 sexually active female survivors, age 18-39, and a control group of 1,366 female siblings of participants in the large-scale survivor study.
Among survivors of childhood cancer who had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for at least a year, 64 percent conceived after, on average, another six months, compared with an average of five months for clinically infertile women in the control group who eventually conceived.
The study is published in the Lancet Oncology.