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Patients need more support to save their fertility, says RCN

The RCN has published guidance to help nurses support patients who are undergoing treatment which could affect their fertility

Nurses are being encouraged by the RCN to talk about preserving fertility with children and young people undergoing treatment which could make it harder for them to conceive.

The college believes that patients with life-limiting conditions, of all ages, could be missing out on the chance to preserve their fertility.

Some illnesses and treatments, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can harm patients fertility and sexual function.

More than half of cancer patients now survive for ten years or more, according to figures for England and Wales in 2010-11.

More options

This gives many more the opportunity to consider the prospect of starting a family and there are many options to preserve fertility, according to the RCN.

Nurses are being encouraged by the RCN to talk about preserving fertility with children and young people undergoing treatment which could make it harder for them to conceive.


The RCN believes there 'is no reason to avoid' future fertility discussions with people 
undergoing treatment such as radiotherapy of chemotherapy. Picture: iStock

The college believes that patients with life-limiting conditions, of all ages, could be missing out on the chance to preserve their fertility.

Some illnesses and treatments, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can harm patients’ fertility and sexual function.

More than half of cancer patients now survive for ten years or more, according to figures for England and Wales in 2010-11.

More options

This gives many more the opportunity to consider the prospect of starting a family and there are many options to preserve fertility, according to the RCN.  

It said nurses and other healthcare professionals need to fully understand the options and ensure patients receive full information, and are supported in their decisions, even if they are children or young people.

'No reason to avoid'

RCN professional lead for midwifery and women’s health Carmel Bagness said: ‘It is all the more complex when children are involved, but that’s no reason to avoid the topic.

‘Nurses need to be able to broach this subject, adapting to the age and needs of the child.’

The guidance recommends presenting information to younger patients in an understandable way and guiding them and their parents or guardians through the decision-making proccess.

Discussions

Healthcare professionals should discuss with younger patients and their families the possibility of relapses and the need for second line treatments, such as radiotherapy, which can lead to permanent gonadal damage.

Wider recommendations include:

  • Being up-to-date with local and national fertility preservation options.
  • Understanding legal and regulatory requirements as well as ethical, cultural and religious considerations.
  • Being prepared to have the initial discussion with patients about treatment affecting fertility and options.

The guidance also covers reducing risk of sexual dysfunction and patients’ options. 

Further information

RCN fertility preservation guidance 


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