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Oncofertility at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Conference

Next week, October 17, several of our Oncofertility Consortium members will be participating on a panel at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities conference in Washington, DC. Their panel title is:  “From Lab To Bedside To Patient And Back Again: Gendered Responses To Questions About Fertility And Cancer Treatment And Their Clinical And Research Implications.” Below is an abstract for the meeting, as well as a quick summary of what each presenter will be talking about. If you happen to be attending the meeting, the panel will be held at 5:45-6:45; it promises to be interesting!!

Because of recent breakthroughs and improved treatments, more people who are diagnosed with cancer survive. And many of these people are young, either in their childbearing years or survivors of childhood cancer. Indeed, one estimate is that by 2010 one of every 250 adults will be a survivor of childhood cancer. But while more aggressive treatments have allowed more young people to survive cancer, these treatments have also resulted in impaired fertility for some. Oncofertility has emerged as a way to address this threat to fertility for those with cancer, and through biomedical research the field is actively developing new ways to help those afflicted with cancer preserve their ability to have biological children.

Oncologists focus on treating a patient’s cancer, but cancer is more than a physical illness for the patient. Cancer, and its implications, has social, cultural, and familial repercussions for patients as well. One such implication is cancer-related infertility. As a result of improved survivorship rates, cancer-related infertility will become a greater concern for patients and their families as the growing cohort of childhood cancer survivors begins to age. Oncofertility is necessarily interdisciplinary, bridging biomedical and social sciences such as bioethics, law, and religion, in a broader effort to examine issues regarding a person’s fertility concerns, choices, and options. In this panel, we will raise the following questions: How are patients affected by infertility as a result of cancer treatment in their day-to-day lives? How is a cancer patient’s sense of self changed because of the possibility (or reality) of infertility? Are these responses different for men and women? And how do their responses affect treatment options – how do (or should) patients’ responses, desires, and beliefs affect treatment options that are part of standard therapy and/or are part of new research?

Panel members:
1) Jacqueline Jeruss, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Northwestern University: Dr. Jeruss, a member of the Oncofertility Consortium, will provide an overview of clinical aspects of oncofertility, describing her experience with patients at the bedside. Furthermore, she will explain the goals of the clinical side of the Oncofertility Consortium, how they respond to patient needs and demands, and what clinicians have achieved thus far.
2) Shauna Gardino, MPH, Clinical Research Coordinator, Oncofertility Consortium, Northwestern University: Ms. Gardino will discuss the Oncofertility “Quality of Life” survey she is conducting, specifically, the questions that are asked, why they are asked, and what the results are so far.
3) Sarah Rodriguez, PhD, Research Fellow, Oncofertility Consortium, Northwestern University: Dr. Rodriguez will analyze how the social implications of infertility in our culture, which places a high value on women bearing children, affects women with cancer and their fertility decisions.
4) Lisa Campo-Engelstein, PhD, Research Fellow, Oncofertility Consortium, Northwestern University: Dr. Campo-Engelstein will focus on how men’s experience with cancer and infertility differs from women’s. She will explore how social expectations of masculinity, especially sexual prowess, shape the fertility choices of male cancer patients.

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