There have been concerns that the use of fertility drugs could lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. While the findings are inconsistent, research has yet to rule out the link.  In a study of women undergoing fertility treatment by the University of Toronto’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, over 50% were unaware of studies showing increased lifetime risks of ovarian cancer after the use of fertility drugs even though two-thirds of them had taken
fertility drugs.  The study commented that “the faith of women in the safety and efficacy of fertility treatment, and in their own and their doctors’ control over the onset of ovarian cancer and ability to successfully treat it, is misguided when one considers the data.” 
What are women’s chances of success with fertility treatment?
On November 23, 2006 the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, an advocacy group which aims to educate in the area of reproductive health, released its annual report on assisted reproduction success rates in Canada. This showed an overall birthrate of 24% per IVF cycle started.  For women under the age of 35, the live birth rate per cycle started was 32%; for women aged 35-59 the overall birthrate dropped to 22%. For women 40 years and older, the overall birthrate was a mere 10%.
This information combined with other surveys and studies reveals a huge discrepancy between actual success rates and women’s predictions about their personal chances of pregnancy with fertility treatment. The University of Toronto study found in 2001 that over 55% of women did not know their own probability of pregnancy using IVF, or thought their chances were 50% or greater. Fully 15% of women held significantly inflated views of their chances of pregnancy through IVF: they believed the chance of a pregnancy with treatment was 74% or greater. The study concludes, “In general, women rated their personal chances of success with fertility treatment to be greater than that for women in general.” 
And in a University of British Columbia Reproductive Health Survey released in November 2006, less than half of the female students surveyed knew that age is the main predictor in determining fertility and about 75% and thought the chances of a 40-year-old woman getting pregnant were 30%. 
How can women prevent infertility?
The Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, a Montreal based group that aims to educate about infertility, knows that age is one of the most common causes of infertility today as women’s fertility declines significantly after their early thirties.  Other factors that can cause infertility include smoking, drinking, low body weight, obesity, and sexually transmitted diseases.  Yet women appear to be unaware that their chances of a successful pregnancy decrease with age. With more knowledge about the causes of infertility, it is possible that fewer women would need to rely on fertility treatment in order to become pregnant.
What now, Agency?
Canadian women do not have enough information to make informed decisions regarding their reproductive health. The Agency is perfectly poised to ensure full disclosure of information about possible outcomes of fertility treatment including short and long-term health risks, the chance of getting pregnant and women’s reproductive health in general. Fertility doctors working in private clinics with financial incentives should not be solely responsible for informing women. The Agency can partly assume a role as educator about the effects and outcomes of fertility treatment. The big question is whether they’ll expose honest, unbiased information—and for that we can only wait and see.
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