The fertility-related concerns, needs and preferences of younger women with breast cancer: a systematic review

  • Michelle Peate
  • Bettina Meiser
  • Martha Hickey
  • Michael Friedlander


Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in reproductive aged women. Adjuvant systemic therapy is recommended in most women and has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of recurrence and increase survival. However, there may be a negative impact of adjuvant systemic therapy on fertility as well as on subsequent quality of life. There are a number of fertility preservation options currently available and relevant information regarding these options should be provided prior to commencing adjuvant treatment. The aim of the review is to identify the fertility-related needs, concerns and preferences of young women with early breast cancer. The databases MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched from 1988 onwards using keywords, and examining reference lists. Of the 499 articles identified, 20 met eligibility criteria and were reviewed. Multiple fertility-related information needs specific to this group regarding menstrual changes and potential infertility attitudes to, and actual decisions made regarding, pregnancy breastfeeding and contraception emerged. Information on fertility-related decisions was rated as important, and the preferred methods for obtaining this information was consultation with a specialist or a decision aid early in the treatment plan. There is limited research about fertility-related needs, and even less on contraceptive preferences and the attitudes of health care providers towards fertility-related issues. No studies describing the development of tools to assist with decisions about fertility-related choices were identified. Young women with early breast cancer have specific fertility- and menopause-related needs and concerns, which are commonly not adequately addressed or discussed prior to commencing adjuvant therapy.


Young women Younger women Breast cancer Psychosocial issues Unmet needs 



We would like to thank Ms Ursula Sansom-Daly for reviewing this manuscript. This study was funded by a Project Grant from the Cancer Council of New South Wales (ID RG 06-13). Bettina Meiser is supported by a Career Development Award from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (ID 350989).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle Peate
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bettina Meiser
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martha Hickey
    • 3
  • Michael Friedlander
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychosocial Research Group, Department of Medical OncologyPrince of Wales HospitalRandwickAustralia
  2. 2.Prince of Wales Clinical SchoolUniversity of NSWRandwickAustralia
  3. 3.School of Women’s and Infants’ Health, King Edward Memorial HospitalUniversity of Western AustraliaSubiacoAustralia

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