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Best Practices in Fertility Preservation Communication

The website, Get Inside Health: Your Exclusive Guide to Health and Well-Being, recently conducted an interview with Oncofertility Consortium member Gwendolyn Quinn, PhD, entitled “Preserving Fertility in Cancer Patients: Two Views.”  Dr. Quinn is a researcher at the Moffit Cancer Center and Research Institute as well as an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida. Dr. Quinn has conducted surveys of oncologist’s referral practices and in the interview she discusses her findings and gives recommendations for improved communication practices between patients and providers.

According to Dr. Quinn, because the percentage of young people surviving cancer has increased dramatically, providers need to focus on “quality survival” for cancer patients and this includes fertility preservation.  Dr. Quinn states, “patients have not routinely been asking about concerns about fertility, partially because they are unaware it’s even an issue and partially because they’re afraid to ask for anything beyond survival.”  This is exactly why it is up to the provider to broach the topic of fertility preservation, especially at a time when the patient may not be able to think beyond their diagnosis and initiate fertility preservation dialogue on their own.

Dr. Quinn also discusses the ASCO guidelines for discussing fertility preservation with patients and states that the guidelines are not meant for oncologists to pick and choose who they should have fertility preservation conversations with. The guidelines include all patients of reproductive age regardless of what their prognosis is. Recently there have been a growing number of families interested in posthumous reproduction if a patient does not survive their disease. Many oncologists acknowledge that they are not comfortable having fertility preservation conversations with patients who have a poor prognosis; however, Dr. Quinn argues that providers need to set their personal values aside and consider what the patients needs are.

Finally, Dr. Quinn discusses the role of the oncologist in the fertility preservation dialogue. She states that while it’s not their responsibility to have a full discussion with a patient regarding fertility preservation, it is their responsibility to let them know their options and then refer them to a reproductive endocrinologist. The full interview with Dr. Quinn, “Preserving Fertility in Cancer Patients: Two Views,” is available now.

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