Research Article| Volume 49, ISSUE 3, P667-672, March 2023

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Underutilization of pretreatment fertility preservation counseling in reproductive-age women with gastrointestinal cancer

Published:January 31, 2023DOI:



      Young patients with cancer face unique challenges, including disruption of family planning and fertility. Young adults represent an increasing proportion of gastrointestinal cancer patients, and the prevalence of pretreatment fertility preservation counseling in this population is unknown.


      Women 18–40 years who underwent surgery for gastric, colorectal, hepatobiliary, or pancreatic cancer from 2004 to 2019 were identified through the Mayo Clinic Cancer Registry. Natural language processing was used to search electronic medical records and identify documentation of pretreatment fertility counseling.


      In total, 216 reproductive-age women who underwent resection of gastrointestinal cancers were identified. Pretreatment fertility preservation counseling by any provider was documented in 29 (13%) of the entire cohort. This increased to 26 (23%) in women who also received systemic therapy. This rate did not change over time (p > 0.05). Women who had pretreatment fertility preservation counseling were younger, had higher stage disease, and were more likely to undergo chemotherapy (all p < 0.05). Of the 29 women who had a documented pretreatment discussion, 22 (76%) met with a fertility specialist and 14 (48%) eventually underwent a fertility preservation procedure.


      A small subset of reproductive-age women who underwent surgery for gastrointestinal cancer had documented pretreatment fertility preservation counseling and only one in ten women met with a fertility specialist. The high rate of proceeding to fertility preservation treatment further supports the importance of this discussion in all patients and represents an opportunity for improvement.


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