Less Than Half of Cancer Patients Informed of Fertility Preservation Options

Kim Kincaid had just met with her doctor to start planning a family when she received devastating news that same week — the 37-year-old East Bay executive had breast cancer. In California, more women are diagnosed with breast cancer (more than 25,000 each year) than any other state — and Kincaid had just become one of them.

Many women are not aware that radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer may leave them infertile. A study presented by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that less than half of physicians referred cancer patients to reproductive specialists. Those who were not informed about fertility preservation options early often have lingering regret and a reduced satisfaction of life.

“Patients are overwhelmed to receive their diagnosis and may not realize the effects on fertility,” says Dr. Louis Weckstein, medical director of the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. “Learning about lost fertility after treatment can be devastating.”

Fertility preservation options include egg freezing and embryo freezing, also called cryopreservation. Eggs can be fast-frozen through vitrification. After cancer treatment, the eggs can be thawed and used for in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Women may freeze the embryos for later use. This is a better, more successful option if a patient has a partner at the time of treatment.

Kincaid pursued embryo freezing. Now free of cancer, she and her husband Kevin Kincaid are starting a round of IVF. “We are optimistic and hopeful to have a baby on the way by the holidays,” says Kim Kincaid.

About Reproductive Science Center:

Established in 1983, the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area is responsible for the nation’s second successful birth of a baby from a frozen embryo and is recognized today for its pregnancy rates and work with egg donors and egg donation in the Western United States and around the world. Fertility doctors Dr. Galen, Dr. Weckstein, Dr. Willman, Dr. Hinckley, Dr. Sgarlata, Dr. Wachs and Dr. Ivani are specialists in infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, miscarriages, male infertility, pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS), egg freezing and reproductive medicine surgery.