Fertility navigators can be a useful addition to oncofertility care, according to the results of a new study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.
Nine adolescent and young adult (AYA) female patients with cancer, in addition to 6 healthcare professionals, were interviewed in this study. Interviews centered on participants’ experiences with 2 fertility navigators at the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, where the patients were seen for fertility preservation care. Healthcare professionals in the study worked with the fertility navigators, who were fertility nurses with some training and exposure involving the patient navigator role. Interview questions were tailored to participants’ roles as patients or healthcare professionals.
The participating patients had a mean age of 32 years (range, 20-40). Most patients (7) had breast cancer, and 2 had Hodgkin lymphoma. During fertility preservation counseling, no patients were married, 6 reported having a partner, and 3 were reported to be single. For fertility preservation, 6 patients chose oocyte cryopreservation and 3 chose embryo cryopreservation.
Interviews for patients occurred at a mean of 13 months (range, 9-20) after the first contact with a fertility navigator. Overall, patients and healthcare professionals reported positive feelings about their experiences with fertility navigators. Patients felt that the fertility navigators provided information, logistical support, and familiarity. Healthcare professionals reportedly had favorable experiences of collaboration with fertility navigators and appreciated that the navigators took over some tasks. Both participant groups considered the fertility navigators to be approachable, though some patients had difficulty reaching the navigators.
Suggestions to improve the value of fertility navigators in fertility preservation counseling included increasing their availability and enhancing their presence early on and throughout the counseling process.
Overall, patients and healthcare professionals alike appreciated the support provided by the fertility navigators and recommended increasing fertility navigators’ roles in oncofertility care.
van den Berg M, Nadesapillai S, Braat DDM, Hermens RPMG, Beerendonk CCM. Fertility navigators in female oncofertility care in an academic medical center: a qualitative evaluation [published online March 20, 2020]. Support Care Cancer. doi:10.1007/s00520-020-05412-1