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Gaps in Fertility Preservation Knowledge in Young Cancer Survivors

Infertility is serious and often underestimated side effect of cancer treatment. Ensuring cancer patients are equipped with the necessary health information to protect and preserve their fertility in a time sensitive manner is a critical component to comprehensive cancer care. In a new article in Nursing: Research and Reviews, by Angela Jukkala, Karen Meneses, Andres Azuero, June Cho and Patrick McNees, entitled, “Development of the Knowledge of Fertility and Fertility Preservation Scale,” the authors reported on a process used to develop and examine the reliability and validity of an instrument to measure a breast cancer survivor’s self-assessed knowledge of fertility and fertility preservation.

In their study, 92 breast cancer survivors between the ages of 25-45 were asked to complete the Knowledge of Fertility and Fertility Preservation (KF) Scale as part of their participation in a larger study, the Fertility Cancer Project (FCP). The KF Scale is a new instrument designed to measure a breast cancer survivor’s self-assessed level of knowledge of fertility and fertility preservation. The content of the KF Scale was developed through a comprehensive review of the literature, researcher clinical expertise, and expert review to meet the fertility and fertility preservation knowledge needs of young breast cancer survivors. The KF Scale included 13 content areas grouped into three subscales: Treatment Factors Affecting Fertility, Infertility Information, and Alternative Parenting Options.  All items were scored on a 1–3 rating scale with 1 representing “a little”, 2 representing “some”, and 3 representing “a lot” of knowledge.

The results of the KF Scale analysis were consistent: many participants self-assessed their overall knowledge of fertility and fertility preservation as “a little” and the majority rated their knowledge for the Infertility Information subscale as “a little.” What this means is that most patients completed their chemotherapy treatment having only “a little” knowledge of cancer treatment’s impact on their fertility and only “a little” knowledge about fertility preservation options beforehand. These results suggest that more health-related communication and information about fertility impacting cancer treatment is needed prior to undergoing treatment. According to the authors, “Health care professionals providing care for young women newly diagnosed with breast cancer must be able to provide needed health information on a wide range of topics (eg, surgery, chemotherapy, fertility preservation) in a relatively short period of time.”

To ensure that patients receive quality nursing care, they need to be informed of the long-term side effects of chemotherapy, including infertility. The KF Scale could be used to develop individualized teaching plans to meet patient-specific fertility and fertility preservation health information needs. The KF Scale could also be used to examine the effectiveness of educational interventions if used before and after the intervention. Read “Development of the Knowledge of Fertility and Fertility Preservation Scale.”

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