Discussion of fertility preservation with newly diagnosed patients: oncologists' views

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IntroductionAlthough physician discussion with patients regarding fertility preservation (FP) options prior to cancer treatment can provide important information for survivors concerning their future fertility, little is known about the extent to which physicians discuss FP with patients. This qualitative study sought to identify current physician FP communication practices and determine factors that may impact communication efforts regarding FP.Materials and methodsQualitative data were collected using semi structured interviews with 16 physicians practicing at a major cancer center in the South.ResultsAll providers were board certified in medical oncology, radiation oncology or surgical oncology. The main factors that emerged from qualitative analysis included distinct variations in quality of discussion about FP, knowledge of FP resources, attitudes, practice behaviors and perceptions of patient characteristics.DiscussionWhile most physicians discussed potential fertility loss as a side effect of cancer treatment, few provided information to patients about preserving fertility. Patient characteristics such as gender and cancer site may impact the discussion, as well as system factors such as costs of procedures and access to FP resources. Education and training for physicians about FP options for cancer patients, particularly females, may promote discussion of FP. In addition, system barriers related to availability and affordability of FP resources must also be addressed.Implications for cancer survivorsPhysicians should consider providing patients with timely, understandable information related to their FP options, prior to the administration of treatment. Such discussions may lead to improved quality of life for individuals as they transition from patients to survivors.

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