Fertility Preservation Decision Making in Cancer Patients
Atlanta, GA – New research presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine today highlighted the obstacles facing patients as they make decisions about preserving their reproductive options.
Investigators from Brown University used focus groups to explore the feelings of breast cancer patients about fertility preservation. They found that four main themes emerged for these patients:
1) costs, including time, money and emotional costs,
2) safety of the patient and any offspring,
3) prospects for successful treatment, and
4) having sufficient time to process information about fertility preservation.
Researchers at New York University used a more quantitative methodology to examine similar questions. They enrolled 16 patients in a registry, 11 of whom sought fertility preservation treatments. They found 10 of the 16 felt having a child was the most important thing in their lives. Eleven of them were concerned about the impact of their cancer treatment on their fertility. And 11 were unsure about the level of risks they would undertake to achieve their reproductive goals.
Physicians and nurses have important roles to play in counseling cancer patients about their reproductive options. A team from New York examined the current perceptions and practices of oncology nurses. Using an on-line survey, they found that nurses who were knowledgeable about fertility preservation were more than twice as likely to discus the impact of cancer treatments with their patients. More than 90% of the nurses reported that having guidelines would facilitate better discussion of reproductive issues with their patients.
Physicians’ attitudes about the potential for posthumous parenting were explored by a team from Tampa, Florida. They found a slim majority (50.5%) reported not having a view about posthumous parenting, and only 13% supported it. However, less than a quarter (22.8%) agreed with the statement “Patients with poor prognosis should not pursue fertility preservation.”
“As fertility preservation options for cancer patients continue to improve, the demands for quality information sharing between patients and their doctors and nurses must continue to improve, as well,” said R. Dale McClure, MD, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.