Developing a post-treatment survivorship care plan to help breast cancer survivors understand their fertility

Abstract

Purpose

Reproductive-aged breast cancer survivors (BCS) who have completed initial cancer treatment frequently want to know about their future fertility potential. The purpose of this qualitative study was to assess if the fertility-related content presented in the survivorship care plan prototype met the informational needs of post-treatment BCS and to provide an opportunity for the target audience to review and react to the proposed content and design.

Methods

We conducted and analyzed transcripts from seven focus groups with BCS to evaluate their reactions to the survivorship care plan prototype. We independently coded transcripts for consistent themes and sub-themes and used a consensus-building approach to agree on interpretation of results.

Results

We identified five themes that describe the post-treatment BCS’ responses to the prototype survivorship care plan in the context of their informational needs and experiences: (1) the prototype’s fertility-related information is relevant; (2) desire for clinical parameters to help survivors understand their infertility risk; (3) fertility-related information is important throughout survivorship; (4) evidence-based content from a neutral source is trustworthy; and (5) the recommendation to see a fertility specialist is helpful, but cost is a barrier.

Conclusions

BCS have concerns and needs related to their fertility potential after initial breast cancer treatment. The evidence-based information offered in our prototype survivorship care plan was acceptable to BCS and has significant potential to address these needs. Additional primary data that identify post-cancer treatment indicators of fertility would advance this effort.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jessica R. Gorman.

Ethics declarations

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study protocol was approved by the University of California San Diego Human Research Protections Program. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

This study was conducted with the support of California Breast Cancer Research Program Translational Award 200B-0 144 and National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Child Health and Development) grant HD080952-03. This research was also funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA008748.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Gorman, J.R., Julian, A.K., Roberts, S.A. et al. Developing a post-treatment survivorship care plan to help breast cancer survivors understand their fertility. Support Care Cancer 26, 589–595 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-017-3871-9

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Keywords

  • Cancer
  • Communication
  • Fertility
  • Survivorship
  • Reproductive health
  • Survivorship care plan