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Fertility Preservation, Parenthood and Collaborative Care

A new journal article by Oncofertility Consortium members explores the fertility and parenthood concerns of adolescent and young adult (AYA) female cancer survivors and the various components that lead to their reproductive decisions. The qualitative study that begot this article aimed to provide additional insight into how AYA survivors make fertility and parenthood decisions and what barriers they face along they way. “How Do You Feel About Fertility and Parenthood? The Voices of Young Female Cancer Survivors,” by oncofertility researchers Jessica R. Gorman, Samantha Baily, John P Pierce and Irene Su in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, presents in depth information on an issue that has not been thoroughly explored in existing scholarship.

Six themes emerged from the analysis of the data gathered from study participants: (1) A hopeful but worried approach to fertility and parenthood, (2) Frustration with a lack of choice or control over fertility, (3) Young survivors want information about their fertility, (4) Young survivors want better continuity of care in survivorship, (5) Cancer diagnosis and related fertility problems introduce relationship challenges, and (6) Decisions about parenthood are complicated.[1]

The overriding theme of this study and something the Oncofertility Consortium is working tirelessly to improve, is the importance of collaborative, comprehensive medical care for young cancer patients. Study participants described feeling disappointed with the care they received as patients and the lack of coordination among providers treating them.  Specifically for patients experiencing long-term side effects such as the loss of fertility, much of the burden of managing their care fell onto them as their providers focused on their immediate need for treatment and did not discuss at length or in some cases, at all, potential long term consequences of treatment. These findings are consistent with previous research suggesting that there is an unmet need for fertility preservation counseling at the time of diagnosis.

Understanding the concerns of young cancer survivors is the first step toward developing an effective and appropriate treatment plan that is consistent with the needs of the AYA population. As we now know, the AYA cancer community presents its own set of unique challenges when devising a comprehensive treatment regime. Collaboration among health care providers is an important step toward improving the quality of care from cancer patient to cancer survivor. Click here to read, “How Do You Feel About Fertility and Parenthood? The Voices of Young Female Cancer Survivors.”

[1] Gorman, J, Bailey S, Pierce JP, Su HI. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. 2011, Dec 17.

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