Mary Elizabeth Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D.
I was drawn to the field of reproductive endocrinology and infertility for personal and family reasons. I became interested in applying the tools that I can acquired in this field to women with cancer through one of my patients. She was a young woman with breast cancer who very much wanted to have children. She was in a new relationship and in school and was frightened when she found out that the chemotherapy she would be taking would likely impair her future fertility. She self-referred to my infertility clinic. Her journey through her treatment made me realize what desperate need there was for resources and education for these patients.
Eden Cardozo, M.D.
It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that there are over 275,000 women of reproductive age in the US who are cancer survivors. Fortunately, as treatments for cancer improve, many more women are surviving their cancer diagnosis, however, cancer treatments can be damaging to ovaries and can cause premature menopause. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that as part of education and informed consent before cancer therapy, health care providers address the risk of infertility with patients treated during their reproductive years and be prepared to discuss fertility preservation options and/or to refer all patients to reproductive specialists.
At our hospital there are more than 15,000 women between the ages of 21 and 44 years old who are seen for initial consultation with an oncologist annually. We have a clinic for Reproductive Health and Cancer where approximately 60 of these are seen women per year. While we know that many women may not need referral, we hypothesize that many women are missing out on an opportunity to understand reproductive options for their future. We are interested in knowing why many women do not get referred to see if there are any obstacles to referral among oncology providers.
We are asking that all oncology providers seeing a female cancer patient between the ages of 21-44 for their first visit to the MGH cancer center complete a questionnaire which will take only seconds to complete. It asks if the provider referred to a fertility specialist and if not to check off the reason from a list of choices or fill in their own reason. We also want to understand if providing this questionnaire will result in an increase in referrals to our practice.
Why is this important?
The aim of this study is to understand what if any barriers exist among oncology providers that result in lack of referral of young women diagnosed with cancers that require treatment that will impair their future fertility to a reproductive endocrinologists to discuss options for future family building. Our hope is to identify any such barriers or misconceptions so that we can work to eliminate them.
Who will benefit?
The primary beneficiary of this research will be women of reproductive age with cancer who are interested in future family building.