Cancer Control Research5R21CA114385-02
Allen, Susan M.
ADDRESSING FERTILITY ISSUES WITH FEMALE CANCER PATIENTS
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Although cancer is often thought of as a disease of the elderly, a substantial minority of women with cancer are diagnosed in their pre-menopausal years. Approximately 40% of such women experience transition to menopause or other treatment-associated problems with fertility. Loss of fertility through cancer is one of the most traumatic side effects experienced by younger women with cancer. Despite the importance of this issue to women's lives following cancer, oncologists do not always discuss the fertility-related side effects of chemotherapy with pre-menopausal women prior to initiating treatment. There is currently no national data indicating the scope of this problem, or the reasons underlying it. The overall objective of this developmental study is to design and implement a national survey of oncologists to fill this gap in knowledge. This data will be used to inform the development of an intervention to encourage and assist oncologists in providing information to women regarding treatment-associated fertility issues prior to initiating treatment, and in referring interested women to appropriate specialists to learn about the reproductive treatment options that may be available to them. Study aims are: 1)To determine oncologists' knowledge about the potential fertility-related side-effects of chemotherapy treatment for pre-menopausal women with cancer and the effect of such side effects on the quality of life of female cancer survivors. Also, to determine oncologists' knowledge of women's fertility treatment options; 2) To determine perceived physician barriers to discussing fertility-related issues with women prior to treatment initiation; 3) To identify the characteristics of pre- menopausal women that decrease the likelihood that physicians will raise fertility issues with them; and 4) To identify the characteristics of oncologists who are least knowledgeable about the potential side-effects of chemotherapy treatment and/or who perceive barriers to discussing fertility related issues prior to treatment initiation, to inform intervention targeting efforts. The public health benefits of addressing the issue of physician-patient communication about fertility issues relevant to women with cancer in their reproductive years may include greater use of chemotherapeutic drugs that are not fertility impairing and also greater access to reproductive health counseling. An indirect benefit would be enhancement of the quality of life of this population of cancer survivors.