The purpose of this study was to clarify the impact of cancer upon family planning considerations and to better understand which variables are more likely to affect reproductive decision-making or family planning outcomes in cancer survivors. Much of the research on the impact of receiving a significant medical diagnosis on reproductive decision-making and family planning has involved patients with other chronic illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, HIV, Huntington disease, or other X-linked conditions. Common themes from this research were grouped into seven content areas (i.e., who to partner with and when to partner, opinions of others, sense of self and equality in decision-making, physical effects of treatment, affective states at time of decision, weighing pros and cons of various options, and social-moral-philosophical considerations). This study examined these aforementioned content areas within a sample of cancer patients to better understand the potential impact of a cancer diagnosis upon the decision-making process as related to family planning.
The findings of this study demonstrated these participants shared the sentiments of other chronic illness survivors with regard to the sense of identity/fulfillment related to the parent role, strong affect surrounding decision-making, concerns about the physical effects of treatment, and taking a cognitive approach to decision-making. Specifically related to family planning, it appeared that participants in this study held the values of parenting/family planning prior to their cancer diagnosis. These values were not significantly impacted by a cancer diagnosis; rather, the means about achieving their goals were shaped by the nature of their cancer treatment. Therefore, the intent for family planning appeared to precede a cancer diagnosis for several participants. For many, however, personal variables related to the nature of their specific cancer and the long-term consequences of treatment shaped their desire to parent. Self-efficacy to achieve their family planning goals was highly intertwined with the opinions of their medical providers and partners. Future recommendations include replicating the study within a larger and more diverse population, implementing data reduction strategies to better delineate the impact of a cancer diagnosis upon family planning considerations, and using the subsequent results to inform clinical practice.
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