Young adults are more likely than ever before to transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. So young people diagnosed with lymphomas, leukemias, melanomas, and breast cancer aren’t only fighting their disease, but also planning for their futures. Every survivor deserves a chance to create a life of her own choosing, but imagining that life raises a host of questions: how do you get pregnant if you had cancer? Can you have the family you always dreamed you would?
There’s no doubt that cancer treatment negatively impacts fertility. How much depends on the type and dose of drugs you receive, and age plays an important role. Doctors aren’t fortune tellers — no one can tell in advance who will be sterile after chemo, and who will go on to have a family of five.
At 21, Becki McGuiness was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, reported a story in Cosmopolitan, and she went into early menopause at 23 as a result of her treatment. While her oncologists informed her that cancer might impact her ability to have a child, they failed to explain her options — the measures she could’ve taken before chemo to preserve her fertility. By the time she learned of the possibilities, her choices — and her chance at biological motherhood — were long gone.
It’s a tragic story, but not an uncommon one. Livestrong conducted a survey revealing that 50 percent of cancer patients don’t recall discussing fertility risks with their doctors. McGuiness shared her experience with Cosmpolitan to raise awareness about oncofertility. She’s not alone in her work. StupidCancer.org, a support site for young adults facing a devastating diagnosis, is passionate about spreading the word. “Fertility preservation is a civil right,” reads an Instagram slogan.
What were McGuiness’s choices, and how can cancer patients protect their innate ability to have…
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