Shortly after receiving a cancer diagnosis, male adolescents may be unprepared to independently make informed decisions about fertility preservation, according to the results of an interview-based study published in Pediatric Blood and Cancer.
Semistructured interviews were conducted with 33 male adolescents, 32 mothers, and 22 fathers 1 to 2 months after the male adolescent’s cancer diagnosis. This study population represented 37 families.
During the interviews, male adolescents were asked to tell the interviewer about conversations they had about fertility preservation/sperm banking with health care providers, parents, and other people, including family members. Parents were similarly asked to discuss conversations they had about fertility preservation/sperm banking with health care providers, their son, and other people, including family members.
One problematic theme identified from the interviews was that parents tended to withhold their opinion about fertility preservation and let their adolescent sons decide whether to pursue sperm banking.
“This is concerning due to possible developmental barriers in future-oriented thinking for adolescents, which can be made more difficult in the context of a new cancer diagnosis and the associated time constraints, physical effects, and emotional strain of the situation,” the study authors explained.
The interviews also revealed that one-third of adolescents, as well as some parents, did not recall details of their conversations with health care providers about fertility preservation. Recalling these details was difficult for some adolescents because their health status was affected by their cancer diagnosis.
Another reason for the limited recalling of details among adolescents was that adolescents deferred these conversations with health care providers to their parents. The reason for poor recall among fathers was they tended to not attend the conversation with health care providers.
The interviews also showed that adolescents tended to be open to discussing fertility preservation with their parents, with one-third of adolescents describing these conversations as neutral or positive.
“Indeed, unlike adult populations, adolescents may prefer family support over physician support when making sperm-banking decisions, and parent recommendations strongly influence these decisions,” the study authors wrote.
Olsavsky AL, Theroux CI, Dattilo TM, et al. Family communication about fertility preservation in adolescent males newly diagnosed with cancer. Pediatr Blood Cancer. Published online February 25, 2021. doi:10.1002/pbc.28978