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Keywords:

  • decision research;
  • family planning;
  • fertility preservation;
  • oncofertility;
  • qualitative research;
  • survivorship;
  • theory development

ABSTRACT

Objective

To provide an in-depth description of the decision-making process that women who are diagnosed with cancer undergo as they decide whether to accept or decline fertility cryopreservation.

Design

A qualitative, grounded theory approach.

Setting and Participants

Twenty-seven women (mean age = 29 years) who were diagnosed with cancer and were eligible for egg, embryo, or ovarian tissue cryopreservation were recruited from the Internet and two university centers.

Methods

Each woman participated in a semistructured interview by phone (n = 21) or e-mail (n = 6). Data were analyzed using the constant-comparative method to inductively ascertain the women's decision-making process. NVivo 8 software was used to assist with data retrieval and analysis.

Results

The decision-making process consists of four major phases that women experience to actively formulate a decision: identify, contemplate, resolve, and engage. In the identify phase, women acquire knowledge and experience a “double hit” scenario that is often devastating. Within the contemplate phase, five interrelated dimensions emerged including constructing and/or endorsing preferences and values and undergoing decisional debriefing sessions. A decision is reached in the resolve phase and carried out in the engage phase. Among the participants, 14 declined fertility cryopreservation and 13 accepted egg and/or embryo cryopreservation.

Conclusion

The descriptive theoretical framework clarifies the underlying processes that women with cancer undergo to decide about fertility cryopreservation. Quality of care for women with cancer can be improved by implementing appropriately timed information and tailored developmental and contextual counseling to support decision making.