Fertility and parenthood issues in young female cancer patients--a systematic review.
BACKGROUND Young breast cancer survivors often need to deal with adverse effects of treatments on fertility and complex reproductive decisions. In this systematic review, we highlight what is known about childbearing and parenthood attitudes and decisions of young breast cancer survivors from their own perspective. METHODS We conducted manual and electronic searches on Pubmed, PsychInf and CINAHL databases for articles, published in English between 1 January 1990 and 31 October 2012, that assessed childbearing, pregnancy and parenthood attitudes/decisions of female breast cancer survivors (premenopausal and/or <50 years old). Eligible articles were classified into quantitative studies, qualitative studies and mixed methods studies. Data from each study were individually extracted by all the authors, and standardized tables were created and discussed to ensure congruence of the information extracted. RESULTS Of the 493 publications identified in PubMed (results are presented for PubMed searches as the other databases did not yield any new relevant papers), 8 met the inclusion criteria, in addition to 2 publications retrieved manually. A total of 10 studies provided information on pregnancy and parenthood attitudes and decisions, in addition to risks and benefits of childbearing after breast cancer. Survivors had mixed attitudes towards the issue. Fear associated with future pregnancy was reported, namely the risk of cancer recurrence. However, for many survivors, pregnancy and parenthood can represent normalcy, happiness and life fulfilment. CONCLUSIONS Childbearing after breast cancer is an important issue for survivors. Future larger and prospective studies should be implemented to increase certainty of conclusions of current research. Clinicians may benefit from a deeper understanding of the importance of pregnancy and parenthood to survivors in order to provide the needed educational and psychosocial support services, overcome misinformation and better assist women with their fertility-related decisions.