Background: Several types of cancer treatment interfere with male and female fertility or can complicate pregnancy. Rates of birth defects and cancer have also been studied in the offspring of cancer survivors. Little is known, however, about the impact of a history of cancer on survivors' attitudes, anxieties, and choices about having children of their own.
Procedure: We review the relevant literature on cancer survivor's concerns about infertility and childbearing and propose areas for future research.
Results: We generate several hypotheses, including that cancer survivors will be more distressed than infertility patients without a major medical disorder, that survivors diagnosed in adolescence will have the most anxieties about parenthood, that women will be more distressed over infertility and more concerned about their children's health than men, that survivors who rate their overall quality of life more negatively will be less concerned about infertility and more apt to decide to forego parenthood, that survivors of inheritable cancer syndromes will have more distress about childbearing issues than other survivors, and that survivors who do have children after treatment will perceive them more positively than do parents who have not confronted cancer.
Conclusions: Research on the emotional aspects of infertility after cancer and on the factors that influence survivors' decisions about having children assumes increasing importance with the growth in number of survivors of reproductive age.