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Fertility impairment and recovery after chemo- and radiotherapy have been reported in both male and female childhood cancer survivors, but little is known about the dynamics. Our aim, therefore, was to describe the development of fertility impairment and possible recovery in childhood brain tumour survivors.
In this longitudinal study, we included 144 survivors, who were treated in two German paediatric oncology centres between 2000 and 2005. Fertility parameters were retrieved from medical records up to 12 years after diagnosis.
Participants with age ≥13 years and formerly cranial irradiation ≥30 Gray (n = 23), including 83 % (n = 19) with craniospinal irradiation ≥30 Gray, had a higher median FSH concentration compared to 29 patients without chemoradiotherapy: 8.3 IU/l (IQR 6.5-11.2) versus 4.1 IU/l (IQR 3.2-5.1) 2 years after initial treatment; 8.9 IU/l (IQR 8.5-10.8) versus 4.2 IU/l (IQR 2.4-6.7) after 8 years; and 7.1 IU/l (IQR 6.7-7.7) versus 3.5 IU/l (IQR 2.8-4.2) after 10 years. Altogether, 11/65 women reported the occurrence of amenorrhoea 6.0 years (range 1-10) after diagnosis. Five of these women later developed a regular menstrual cycle without hormone replacement therapy. Patients’ chance of recovery from fertility impairment was increased with time since diagnosis (p = 0.074).
Signs of fertility impairment such as amenorrhoea and elevated FSH levels were observed at variable time points between 1 and 12 years after chemoradiotherapy. Decreasing FSH levels were observed 1-7 years after elevation and were interpreted either as an atrophy of the pituitary gland or as recovery from fertility impairment.