Attitudes and practices about fertility preservation discussions among young adults with cancer treated at a comprehensive cancer center: patient and oncologist perspectives

John M. Salsman*, Betina Yanez, Mallory A. Snyder, Alexis R. Avina, Marla L. Clayman, Kristin N. Smith, Khouri Purnell, David Victorson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Young adults (YAs, ages 18–39) diagnosed with cancer face multiple challenges that affect their health-related quality of life, including the potential for cancer-related infertility. Providing information about the risk of infertility and options to maintain fertility is critical for YAs who are newly diagnosed. However, barriers to effective communication exist for oncologists and their patients. The purpose of this study was to interview medical oncologists and YAs from the same cancer center to examine attitudes and practices about fertility preservation. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with medical oncologists (N=12) and YAs within 2 years post-treatment (N=24), representing the most common cancers affecting YAs. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded using qualitative methodologies with the analysis software NVivo 10. Results: Twelve oncologists (50% female, 67% <50 years) and 24 YAs (67% female, M=29 years) completed interviews. Common themes across oncologist and YA interviews were the roles of cancer type or stage and patient interest or parity in influencing the decision. The most important factor for YAs was to receive accurate, in-depth information. Unique themes for oncologists focused on clinical aspects of their patient’s disease. For YAs, they shared about the emotional impact of cancer-related infertility and desire for support from trusted others. Conclusions: Results provide a better understanding of the attitudes and practices about fertility preservation discussions among YAs. Given the common factors affecting fertility preservation decisions, models of shared decision-making may be ideal for YAs and oncologists. Future interventions should explore tailored applications of this approach for YAs newly diagnosed with cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Cancer
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Fertility
  • Young adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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