Malignant diseases are still common but thanks to the tremendous efforts made by researchers and physicians survival rates continue to rapidly increase. Recent estimates indicate that 1 in 250 people are a cancer survivor but treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery can be detrimental to the fertility of a cancer survivor. Modern treatment protocols take this into consideration by trying to protect the future fertility of a patient but many survivors continue to suffer from premature gonadal failure immediately after treatments or later on in life, at a faster rate than would be expected without such treatments.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) have made major advances in the last few decades. These developments provide oncology patients more options for preserving their fertility and fertility potential. Unfortunately information transmission is not ideal. Currently, the oncologists who represent first-line specialists in treating patients with fertility issues may not be aware of advancements in ART that can enable a patient to preserve his or her fertility potential.
The main objective of the Cancer Knowledge Network’s oncofertility section is to build a bridge between the oncology and ART disciplines, which itself has become a new sub-speciality known as “oncofertility”.
Several options exist today to assist in the preservation of fertility. These options should be tailored according to a patient’s:
- Type of disease;
- Spread of disease;
- Planned treatment;
- Time available; and
- Whether or not a female patient has a partner.
The CKN oncofertility section will discuss the principles of fertility preservation while providing up-to-date information in this ever-evolving field.
We are working in collaboration with the Oncofertility Consortium to showcase pertinent information available to specialists, residents and the other health care providers. We will strive to publish information in a format that appeals to cancer patients and their caregivers, such as:
- Flowcharts for managing patients undergoing fertility preservation;
- Studies/research from Canadian institutes that offer fertility preservation programs;
- An interactive information system that will contain current clinical resources in Canada and will facilitate communication between users and the CKN;
- A consultation module which would provide an immediate/close to real-time consultation service to physicians; and
- A resource of up-to-date information for oncologists who are at the forefront of fertility treatments for cancer patients.
Since oncofertility is rapidly-evolving discipline and field of medicine, the information required by specialists may not differ much from that aimed at by residents. For that reason, we may combine the information we make available to residents and medical professionals. We may develop learning primers for residents and oncologist unfamiliar with this sub-speciality.
The CKN oncofertility section will encourage relevant stakeholders in the Canadian medical community and elsewhere to publish their research in the Current Oncology journal. I expect that the bridges built through the section will be fruitful and result in collaborative research projects.