Nurses Can Lead Conversations on Fertility Preservation

Sap Partners | Schools of Nursing | <b>UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center</b>

As prognoses continue to improve, concerns about treatment-associated fertility risks are becoming more prevalent and are often a topic of discussion between patients and their nurses or nurse practitioners.

Oncology nurses have a unique relationship with their patients that may differ from that of physicians, said Lindsay Kroener, MD. This relationship means that often nurses may be the person a patient turns to with questions and concerns about fertility preservation vs their physicians.

“I think a lot of times, the physicians are coming in [and] they have a million [other] things going on,” she said in an interview with Oncology Nursing News®. “Sometimes the nurses have a little more time [with the patient].”

Kroener recently presented on the topic during the 39th Annual Miami Breast Cancer Conference®. Her presentation, “Answering Your Patient’s Questions About Fertility,” outlined the scope of the fertility preservation in cancer, different treatment options and candidate considerations, and conversations surrounding pregnancy following cancer treatment.

Approximately 1 in 48 women younger than 40 years old receive an invasive cancer diagnosis, Kroener explained in her presentation.2 Moreover, as survival rates continue to improve, the question of posttreatment fertility strategies has become more relevant. Many women who survive cancer are unfortunately at an elevated risk of infertility, ovarian insufficiency, and adverse perinatal outcomes.

However, a variety of factors, including age, ovarian reserve, and cancer therapy type or dosage all result in differing degrees of infertility risk.

“It is really important for us, as health care providers, to address the possibility of infertility and discuss options for fertility preservation with reproductive aged patients,” Kroener noted in her presentation. “This is endorsed by many professional societies, including ASCO, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Addressing these issues are really considered to be a measure of quality care in oncologic care.”

However, ensuring the nurses are up-to-speed on fertility preservations is a good place to begin. For this reason, Kroener said she was happy to be included on the nursing track at this year’s conference.

“Even at our own institution, this is something that we really want the nursing staff to be informed [about, especially] because they are in such direct contact with the patient and [represent] a great sort of resource of information,” Kroener told Oncology Nursing News®. “I was happy to see this on that track.”