Position Statement From APHON, CANO/ACIO, AND ONS

Fertility Preservation in Individuals With Cancer

fertility preservation, nursing, future infertility, cancer treatment, fertility preservation counseling
ONF 2024, 51(4), 294-296. DOI: 10.1188/24.ONF.294-296

The position statement on fertility preservation was produced through collaborative efforts among the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses, Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology/Association canadienne des infirmières en oncologie, and the Oncology Nursing Society. It was first released in 2024 on each organization’s respective website. Citations for this position statement should be attributed to all three authoring organizations. Last updated December 23, 2023.

Jump to a section

    All children and adults with cancer are eligible to receive fertility preservation consultation regardless of whether they express interest in conceiving a child or building a family. The majority of cancer survivors express distress regarding possible future infertility (Cherven et al., 2022). Attention to fertility concerns has been cited as an unmet need in 93% of adolescent and young adult survivors, and uncertainty about fertility status is common in young adult cancer survivors (Benedict et al., 2016; Wong et al., 2017). This highlights the importance of having timely, informed, and ongoing discussion about treatment-related effects on fertility from diagnosis through survivorship (Mulder et al., 2021). However, effective communication about the possibility of treatment-related infertility and available fertility preservation options does not routinely occur (Lampic & Wettergren, 2019; Ussher et al., 2018; Vesali et al., 2019), which can have significant and ongoing psychosocial implications for individuals with cancer and their families (Logan & Anazodo, 2019; Patterson et al., 2021).

    Oncology nurses and advanced practice providers are a critical part of interprofessional care teams and have a shared responsibility for fertility preservation for those diagnosed with cancer. This interprofessional approach includes identifying and assessing risk, educating individuals diagnosed with cancer about their risk for infertility, confirming understanding of infertility risk as part of informed consent, and either providing referrals to specialists or offering fertility preservation services. When individuals and their families are well informed about their risk for infertility, they are then empowered to pursue fertility preservation and family building if desired. Research has demonstrated that individuals and their families prefer to be informed of any risk to fertility, including when the risk of infertility is minimal and when preservation options are unavailable (Chan et al., 2017; Oktay et al., 2018).

    Oncology nurses and advanced practice providers are uniquely positioned to provide fertility preservation counseling and education to all patients, regardless of age, gender, and sexual orientation, who are receiving gonadotoxic therapies that place them at risk for treatment-related infertility. Assessment of risk is multifactorial; therefore, nurses and advanced practice providers will use evidence-based risk assessment factors that quantify risk for individuals based on pubertal status, the presence of reproductive organs, and planned treatment. With emerging treatment modalities and fertility preservation methods, families should still be informed regarding the uncertainty of risk in the context of information sharing and decision-making.

    It is the position of APHON, CANO/ACIO, and ONS that:

    • All individuals with cancer and their families, regardless of cancer treatment, prognosis, relationship status, gender, sexual orientation, or age, will receive evidence-informed information regarding their risk of treatment-related infertility and preservation options.
    • Fertility preservation counseling will occur at the time of diagnosis and throughout the cancer continuum, including survivorship, in the patient’s preferred language, at the patient’s level of understanding, and based on their learning needs.
    • Individuals receiving gonadotoxic therapies for nonmalignant conditions will be offered fertility preservation services.
    • Physical, psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual assessments are essential when providing fertility preservation counseling and require a collaborative interprofessional approach.
    • This approach may include nurses, physicians, social workers, psychologists, child life specialists, and spiritual care professionals.
    • Navigation to mental health, genetic, and financial counselors will be offered as needed. Accurate and accessible documentation is required for seamless communication between interprofessional team members.
    • The oncology nurse and APP are uniquely poised to assess the complexity and intersectionality of the individual and family experience and to guide the individual and their family through the fertility preservation process.
    • Oncology nurses and APPs are committed to advancing oncology care through research and endorse incorporating evidence-informed practice into fertility preservation care throughout the cancer care continuum.
    • When fertility counseling and/or methods of preservation are not available at the treating facility, the individual will be referred to centers with available resources that can provide the necessary services.
    • Oncology nurses and APPs will advocate for individuals and their families regarding equitable access to and delivery of fertility preservation services. Oncology nurses and APPs will advocate for healthcare systems to prioritize fertility preservation, ensuring the individual and family are informed of risk throughout treatment and have access to fertility preservation services if desired.
    • Advocacy efforts at the local and federal levels will support affordable, accessible, and equitable health care that includes fertility preservation services.
    • Policies, programs, resources, and training on fertility preservation will be provided to all oncology healthcare professionals and will include all aspects of family building.

    FIGURE1

    References

    American Cancer Society. (2020, February 6). Preserving fertility in females with cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/managing-cancer/side-effects/fertility-an…

    Benedict, C., Thom, B., Friedman, D.N., Diotallevi, D., Pottenger, E.M., Raghunathan, N.J., & Kelvin, J.F. (2016). Young adult female cancer survivors’ unmet information needs and reproductive concerns contribute to decisional conflict regarding posttreatment fertility preservation. Cancer, 122(13), 2101–2109. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.29917

    Chan, J.L., Letourneau, J., Salem, W., Cil, A.P., Chan, S.W., Chen, L.M., & Rosen, M.P. (2017). Regret around fertility choices is decreased with pre-treatment counseling in gynecologic cancer patients. Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice, 11(1), 58–63. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-016-0563-2

    Cherven, B., Williamson Lewis, R., Pruett, M., Meacham, L., & Klosky, J.L. (2022). Interest in fertility status assessment among young adult survivors of childhood cancer. Cancer Medicine, 12(1), 674–683. https://doi.org/10.1002/cam4.4887

    Cooper, R.A., Henderson, T., & Dietrich, C.L. (1998). Roles of nonphysician clinicians as autonomous providers of patient care. JAMA, 280(9), 795–802. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.280.9.795

    Fair, C., Music, F., & Chase, M.-C. (2019). “The struggles of fertility are more difficult than the struggles of cancer”: Adolescent and young adult cancer survivors’ perspectives on fertility preservation. Journal of Adolescent Health, 64(2, Suppl.), S28–S29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.10.067

    Gates, T.G. (2017). Chosen families. Sage Publications Inc.

    Grace, B., Shawe, J., Barrett, G., Usman, N.O., & Stephenson, J. (2022). What does family building mean? A qualitative exploration and a new definition: A UK-based study. Reproductive Health, 19(1), 203. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-022-01511-w

    Kim, S., & Feyissa, I. F. (2021). Conceptualizing “family” and the role of “chosen family” within the LGBTQ+ refugee community: A text network graph analysis. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 9(4), 369. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9040369

    Kreeftenberg, H.G., Pouwels, S., Bindels, A.J.G.H., de Bie, A., & van der Voort, P.H.J. (2019). Impact of the advanced practice provider in adult critical care: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Critical Care Medicine, 47(5), 722–730. https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0000000000003667

    Lampic, C., & Wettergren, L. (2019). Oncologists’ and pediatric oncologists’ perspectives and challenges for fertility preservation. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 98(5), 598–603. https://doi.org/10.1111/aogs.13551

    Logan, S., & Anazodo, A. (2019). The psychological importance of fertility preservation counseling and support for cancer patients. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 98(5), 583–597. https://doi.org/10.1111/aogs.13562

    Mulder, R.L., Font-Gonzalez, A., van Dulmen-den Broeder, E., Quinn, G.P., Ginsberg, J.P., Loeffen, E.A.H., . . . Inthorn, J. (2021). Communication and ethical considerations for fertility preservation for patients with childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer: Recommendations from the PanCareLIFE Consortium and the International Late Effects of Childhood Cancer Guideline Harmonization Group. Lancet Oncology, 22(2), e68–e80. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(20)30595-7

    Oktay, K., Harvey, B.E., Partridge, A.H., Quinn, G.P., Reinecke, J., Taylor, H.S., . . . Loren, A.W. (2018). Fertility preservation in patients with cancer: ASCO clinical practice guideline update. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 36(19), 1994–2001. https://doi.org/10.1200/jco.2018.78.1914

    Olsen, M., LeFebvre, K.B., Walker, S.L., & Dunphy, E.P. (2023). Chapter 20: Altered sexual and reproductive functioning, In ONS chemotherapy and immunotherapy guidelines and recommendations for practice (2nd ed., pp. 643–656). Oncology Nursing Society.

    Patterson, P., Perz, J., Tindle, R., McDonald, F.E.J., & Ussher, J.M. (2021). Infertility after cancer: How the need to be a parent, fertility-related social concern, and acceptance of illness influence quality of life. Cancer Nursing, 44(4), E244–E251. https://doi.org/10.1097/NCC.0000000000000811

    Poorvu, P.D., Frazier, A.L., Feraco, A.M., Manley, P.E., Ginsburg, E.S., Laufer, M.R., . . . Partridge, A.H. (2019). Cancer treatment-related infertility: A critical review of the evidence. JNCI Cancer Spectrum, 3(1), pkz008. https://doi.org/10.1093/jncics/pkz008

    Ussher, J.M., Parton, C., & Perz, J. (2018). Need for information, honesty and respect: Patient perspectives on health care professionals communication about cancer and fertility. Reproductive Health, 15(1), 2. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-017-0441-z

    Vesali, S., Navid, B., Mohammadi, M., Karimi, E., & Omani-Samani, R. (2019). Little information about fertility preservation is provided for cancer patients: A survey of oncologists’ knowledge, attitude, and current practice. European Journal of Cancer Care, 28(1), e12947. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecc.12947

    Weeks, J., Heaphy, B., & Donovan, C. (2001). Same sex intimacies: Families of choice and other life experiments (1st ed.). Routledge.

    Wettergren, L., Ljungman, L., Micaux Obol, C., Eriksson, L.E., & Lampic, C. (2020). Sexual dysfunction and fertility-related distress in young adults with cancer over 5 years following diagnosis: Study protocol of the Fex-Can Cohort study. BMC Cancer, 20(1), 722. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-020-07175-8

    Wong, A.W.K., Chang, T.T., Christopher, K., Lau, S.C.L., Beaupin, L.K., Love, B., . . . Feuerstein, M. (2017). Patterns of unmet needs in adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors: In their own words. Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice, 11(6), 751–764. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-017-0613-4