Supportive oncofertility care, psychological health and reproductive concerns: a qualitative study

By Wang Y, Logan S, Stern K, Wakefield CE, Cohn RJ, Agresta F, Jayasinghe Y, Deans R, Segelov E, McLachlan RI, Gerstl B, Sullivan E, Ledger WE, Anazodo A.


PURPOSE: Impaired fertility in cancer patients and survivors of reproductive age (15-45 years) may lead to psychological distress and poor mental health outcomes, and may negatively impact quality of life. Limited research has focused on the fertility experiences of those who have had access to supportive oncofertility care. This study aims to explore the fertility-care experiences and reproductive concerns of reproductive age cancer patients at the time of their cancer diagnosis who have had access to oncofertility care. METHODS: The qualitative data from a larger mixed method study is presented, comprising 30 semi-structured telephone interviews with newly diagnosed cancer patients across Australia and New Zealand, undertaken between April 2016 and April 2018. RESULTS: Interviews were undertaken with 9 male patients and 21 female patients aged between 15 and 44 years. All patients recalled a discussion about fertility and majority underwent some form of fertility preservation. Thematic analysis identified five main themes: (i) satisfaction with oncofertility care, (ii) a need for individualised treatment and support, (iii) desire for parenthood, (iv) fertility treatment can be challenging, and (v) fertility preservation provides a safety net for the future. CONCLUSIONS: Participants who access supportive oncofertility care report low emotional impact of threatened future infertility at the time of cancer diagnosis. These results suggest that such services may assist in lowering the emotional burden of potential infertility in survivors. Long-term research is needed to assess the longitudinal benefits for different models of care.