What to do now? How women with breast cancer make fertility preservation decisions
- 1Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
- 2Graduate Student, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- Correspondence to Dr Karrie Ann Snyder, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, 1810 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL 60208, USA;
- Received 22 November 2011
- Accepted 9 August 2012
- Published Online First 30 January 2013
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.
Key message points
While fertility preservation has garnered greater attention, less is known about how cancer patients make fertility preservation decisions.
Despite the range of choices for fertility preservation, respondents identified egg/embryo banking as their primary option.
Many factors outside of cancer concerns inhibit and facilitate fertility preservation decisions including fertility history and family relationship dynamics.