Implementing a Systematic Approach to Meeting Patients' Cancer and Fertility Needs: A Review of the Fertile Hope Centers of Excellence Program

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Journal of Oncology Practice 09/2012; 8(5):303-8. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.2011.000452
Source: PubMed


National guidelines recommend patients with cancer of reproductive age be informed of their risk for infertility resulting from cancer treatment. Despite existing technologies to preserve fertility, many patients report not receiving timely information about fertility risk, and oncology providers report multiple barriers to discussing or referring patients on this topic.
Nine cancer centers have been recognized as Fertile Hope Centers of Excellence, a designation awarded to cancer centers with an institutionalized approach to addressing fertility issues. Individual semistructured interviews were conducted with each of these centers to identify strengths of and challenges to their approaches.
All institutions had procedures for the provision of topical professional and patient education and for notification of patients. Notification methods varied widely, from use of customized consent forms to highly automated electronic alerts for providers. Referral routines and enactment of institutional policies also differed. Key components of successful programs emerged, including the value of internal champions, affiliation with complementary programs, and resource sharing.
The programs described provide examples of systems that can be assembled in different types of clinical settings, depending on the availability of resources and infrastructure. As institutions develop programs, metrics to evaluate notification systems, in particular, as well as the supportive program components, should be used so identification of best practices can continue. Widespread adoption of programs that incorporate the baseline elements identified will not only comply with national guidelines but also address patients' reproductive needs and fundamentally affect future quality of life.

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