Over half of younger women with breast cancer have no conversation with their healthcare provider about fertility preservation options.
Nearly 250 out of 474 women under the age of 45 said ‘no’ when asked “Did your healthcare professionals discuss fertility preservation options with you?” as part of a Breast Cancer Care survey.
Yet 86% of the women questioned were receiving chemotherapy, a treatment that can cause infertility.
The survey also revealed that 28% of younger women with breast cancer would still like to have a child or add to their family after treatment.
The survey reflects on a much larger population as around 5,600 women aged 45 and under are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Becky Leach, 36, from Hemel Hempstead, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2015, said she had to raise the question of fertility herself.
She said: “Once my chemotherapy treatment got the go ahead, there was no mention of fertility preservation options at all.”
Leach added: “Your head can feel all over the place after a breast cancer diagnosis, but as a young woman it’s so important you get the chance to pause and think and talk about your future fertility.
The survey’s findings, run contrary to advice from National Institute for Health and Care (NICE), which says women of reproductive age should be offered fertility preservation before starting breast cancer treatment.
The Breast Cancer Care charity is calling for improved communication between breast and fertility clinics.
To facilitate this, the charity has set up a toolkit to help clinics develop a referral pathway for young women when they are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, says: “These worrying findings suggest younger women with breast cancer are being left in the dark.
“They are not getting the chance to talk about preserving their fertility alongside treating the cancer.
“On top of being told you have breast cancer, chemotherapy can shatter young women’s hopes of a family.
“After diagnosis there is a short window of opportunity to try and preserve fertility.
“So we are calling for shared responsibility between healthcare professionals to ensure younger women with breast cancer have the conversation they deserve about fertility preservation options as early as possible.
“While fertility preservation may not be wanted by everyone, it is extremely important for thousands of younger women with breast cancer.”