Fertility preservation for cancer patients webinar

A picture of a couple holding hands in a doctor's office

Fertility preservation is the process in which a person at risk of losing their fertility can freeze their eggs, sperm or embryos. Some cancer treatments can impact on a person’s fertility. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates that roughly 15% of people being treated for cancer will eventually have fertility problems. Unfortunately, we don’t have comparable figures in Ireland.

On 6 November 2020, the Irish Cancer Society facilitated the webinar, Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients. The webinar included a panel of experts by experience and experts in fertility and medical oncology. Our speakers Karen Sheahan, Dr Renato Bauman, Professor Seamus O’Reilly, Dr Maebh Horan and Geraldine Dunphy talked about their experiences, their medical professional expertise and recommendations for the future.

The key messages from the webinar include:

  • The health of a person diagnosed with cancer is the priority; as treatment and survivorship rates improve, quality of life is also an important consideration.
  • Onco-fertility is important, particularly as people start families later and as more is learned about the impact of cancer treatment(s) on fertility.
  • Communication around the life-long effects of cancer treatment, fertility being one such issue, is key. Survivorship is the priority; nonetheless, it is important to discuss a person’s options with them, to ensure that they understand all implications of their treatment. Furthermore, where possible, healthcare practitioners should facilitate access to existing structures.
  • Fertility preservation is available free of charge at Rotunda IVF (for adults) and at Merrion Fertility (for children and adolescents); however, there is no public funding for accessing fertility supports such as IVF.
  • Legislation must keep pace with technological advances.

The Irish Cancer Society has recently launched a Childhood Cancer Fertility Project, in partnership with Merrion Fertility Clinic, which will offer services and supports to children, adolescents and young adults. The Society has also recently released a policy paper on fertility preservation for cancer patients.