What to do now? How women with breast cancer make fertility preservation decisions

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Abstract

Objectives

There has been increased attention paid to cancer-related infertility and fertility preservation. However, how cancer patients decide whether or not to pursue fertility preservation has not been fully examined.

Methods

The data come from 34 interviews with women in the USA diagnosed with breast cancer prior to 40 years of age who contemplated fertility preservation prior to cancer treatment. Fully transcribed interviews were coded through a three-staged inductive process.

Results

Three sets of factors that shaped the decision-making process of the respondents regarding fertility preservation treatment options were identified: perceived benefits (e.g. ability to use ‘younger’ eggs in the future), inhibiting concerns (e.g. success rates) and influential relationships (e.g. physicians, parents and partners).

Conclusions

Respondents saw their main fertility preservation decision as choosing whether or not to pursue egg/embryo banking. The decision-making process was complicated and included both health-related and personal considerations, with many respondents reporting a lack of support services for fertility issues. Findings suggest that greater attention needs to be placed on presenting patients with a wider range of options. Those who counsel patients regarding fertility preservation decisions should be aware of the influence of relationship dynamics, broader health care concerns, and fertility histories on these decisions.

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