Cancer experts draft guidelines for protecting children’s fertility during treatment

JIJI, Kyodo

The Japan Society of Clinical Oncology has drafted the first guidelines for treating child cancer patients so they can have their own children in the future.

Cancer treatments, which can include both drugs and surgery, may impair the functions of ovaries and testes, leaving patients infertile.

There are procedures that allow cancer patients to have children in the future, such as freezing eggs and sperm before treatment, but patients are often not sufficiently informed about them.

The guidelines specifically elaborate on the methods applicable to people with eight types of cancer. For instance, they say the use of cancer drugs after breast cancer surgery may be delayed until eggs are frozen, and that the womb may be left intact if a cervical tumor is 2 cm or smaller.

For girls in puberty, freezing eggs is the only method available. But because the procedure is still in the research stage, it should be conducted at limited numbers of facilities and as clinical research, the guidelines said Thursday.

For boys in puberty, freezing sperm would probably be the most promising option. Because there are no reports so far of such a case proving successful, the guidelines say that there are no methods available at this point in time.

The guidelines do, however, emphasize that medical professionals should give priority to treating patients’ cancer, and not exercise excess caution with therapies for the sake of preserving patients’ reproductive capabilities.

But they also call for doctors to inform patients about infertility risks, and introduce them to doctors specializing in reproductive medicine.

“It doesn’t mean that every one can have children in the future. But it will become an important guideline for patients in making decisions for their future,” said Nao Suzuki, a professor at St. Marianna University School of Medicine who contributed to the guidelines, at a news conference.

“I hope that, first of all, accurate information will be provided to the patients,” said Daisuke Aoki, the head of the committee also involved with making the guidelines.