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Investigators at the Oncofertility Consortium recently published a discussion on historical perceptions of infertility in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. The authors, Shauna Gardino, Sarah Rodriguez, PhD, and Lisa Campo-Engelstein, PhD, related this evidence to contemporary responses to real or perceived fertility loss by male and female cancer survivors. Since oncofertility is a new field, studying infertility and gender allows researchers to gain an understanding of the desire for fertility preservation in male and female cancer patients.

In “Infertility, Cancer, and Changing Gender Norms,” the authors identify that men and women may differently value their reproductive potentials and delve into historical views of infertility between genders. Infertility has often been considered a female problem-though both genders are equally likely to experience infertility. With the advent of modern-day medicine, infertility became a treatable condition for both men and women but, until recent times, almost all patients seeking infertility treatments were women.  The authors further explore the psychological reactions that men and women experience when receiving a diagnosis of infertility and how that has changed over time.

Recent studies have examined the value cancer survivors place on their fertility and it they are distressed by its potential loss. Interestingly, early research identified such values primarily in women but current literature increasingly finds fertility concerns in men, indicating that gender differences in infertility concerns may be decreasing. Perceptions of fertility, infertility, and parenthood have changed rapidly over the past few decades. In the United States, men are more active in child rearing than a generation ago and the authors stipulate that this may play a role on the changing values that men and women place on having biological children.

The National Institutes of Health, which funds the research of the Oncofertility Consortium, supports investigating the changing perception of fertility by cancer survivors, as it can guide fertility preservation recommendations to patients. This new information can help health care providers better care for cancer patients as they make fertility preservation decisions in the short time between diagnosis and treatment.

To learn more information about the history of fertility, join us online at the February 10th Oncofertility Consortium Virtual Grand Rounds with Margaret Marsh, PhD, and Wanda Ronner, MD, who will discuss “The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution.”

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