Manhasset, New York–Despite expressing concerns about their ability to bear children in the future, many young adult females who survive cancer do not receive enough information about their fertility as part of their survivorship care, according to a new study by researchers at Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The findings, which are published today in CANCER, underscore the need for better resources to support survivors in making informed decisions about their reproductive options after treatment is completed. The study was led by Feinstein Institute investigator Catherine Benedict, PhD (photo right), and Joanne Kelvin, MSN, RN, AOCN, and Bridgette Thom, MS, of Memorial Sloan Kettering.
After surviving cancer, many young women face a shorter reproductive timeline than women who have never had cancer. Many experience early menopause because of their cancer treatment.
“The potential loss of fertility has been described in the literature as being almost as painful, if not more so, than the cancer diagnosis itself,” said Dr. Benedict, who is also assistant professor of medicine at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. “Failure to provide information and address concerns with respect to fertility-related decisions may have lasting consequences for young women who hope to move on from their cancer experience to achieve important life goals such as having children. For women at risk for early menopause, delaying fertility-related decisions may cause them to miss their narrowed window of opportunity to preserve their fertility, if desired.”
Dr. Benedict and colleagues asked 346 survivors to complete a web-based, anonymous survey. Across fertility topics, 43 percent to 62 percent reported unmet information needs, and two-thirds of women were worried about their ability to have future children. Having unmet information needs and greater reproductive concerns made it more difficult for women to think about the decision to undergo fertility preservation in the future. Also, two-thirds of women wanted more advice about the decision to preserve their fertility and one-third wanted more support in making the decision.