Since the initiation of the “war on cancer” with the National Cancer Act in 1971, cancer survivorship has increased dramatically. As such survivors, especially young ones, frequently live many decades beyond their initial cancer diagnosis. With the escalating numbers of cancer survivors, comes the need to provide cancer treatment in a way that ensures a healthy and hopeful future. Since 2007, the Oncofertility Consortium has aimed to do that by exploring and expanding the reproductive future of survivors through research, clinical care, and facilitating the collaboration required to ensure that patients receive multi-disciplinary care in a time sensitive manner. To support that mission, the Oncofertility Consortium has just published the fourth book produced by the group, Oncofertility Communication: Sharing Information and Building Relationships across Disciplines. The book, published by Springer, describes the corridors of collaboration between disciplines that are needed to bridge fields that are not traditionally used to talking with each other – e.g. oncologists, reproductive scientists, and others. The book also provides communication strategies to ensure that each discovery in our field can be broadly disseminated.
Over the next few weeks, we hope to give you a glimpse within the book’s chapters, which provide examples and information about communicating to patients and their families, and professionals, stakeholders, and the public.
The first chapter in the book, “How Do Cancer Patients Learn About Fertility Preservation? Five Trajectories of Experience,” discusses the results of more than 60 interviews with breast cancer survivors. In addition to asking whether women remember having a discussion with a healthcare provider during their cancer treatment, the authors Karrie Ann Snyder and William Pearse, identify how the discussion occurred, the quality of that discussion, and the properties that appear to affect such conversations. The authors identify that physician (usually an oncologist) interest and knowledge, existing network with fertility specialists facilitated patient-provider discussions. In addition, patient knowledge and agency in their healthcare decision-making also had an effect on the discussions. Interestingly, differences in perceived social status – such as education, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic position – may also affect the presence and quality of fertility preservation discussions during the cancer treatment process.
As important as the properties are that do affect discussions, are the variables that seem to have no effect. Unexpectedly, Snyder and Pearse identify that patient age and the patients’ perception of the relationship with her physician did not seem to impact the discussions. The information identified by this study, is critical to raising awareness of the need to improve communication between clinicians and patients. Read the chapter “How Do Cancer Patients Learn About Fertility Preservation? Five Trajectories of Experience,” and other chapters in Oncofertility Communication: Sharing Information and Building Relationships across Disciplines and disseminate them within your community.