Stanford Psychiatry’s Catherine Benedict awarded grant to test efficacy of a decision aid and planning tool for family building after cancer

October 27, 2023

Catherine Benedict, PhD

We are pleased to announce that Stanford Psychiatry’s Catherine Benedict, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, has received a grant from the National Cancer Institute to examine the efficacy of a decision aid and planning tool for family building after cancer.

Gonadotoxic cancer treatments can cause infertility, early menopause, or problems getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term. Up to 93% of young adult female cancer survivors report fertility distress; 30-46% meet criteria for moderate-severe fertility-related trauma. Young adult female cancer survivors who complete gonadotoxic treatment often need to use assisted reproductive technology or adoption to have a child, which have physical/medical, emotional, financial, legal, and logistical challenges.

Prior work shows that young adult female cancer survivors are unprepared for the challenges of family building after cancer, have unrealistic expectations (such as overestimating the likelihood of success), and risk missing their narrowed reproductive window and experiencing greater difficulty, distress, and higher medical costs than expected. A web-based decision aid and planning tool called “Roadmap to Parenthood” for family building after cancer has demonstrated positive effects on decisional conflict, knowledge, self-efficacy, and patient-provider communication in two pilot studies. This study will further test the efficacy of the tool to support fertility and family-building decisions and planning behaviors, thereby working to ensure women are prepared and able to have a child if and when they want to after cancer.

“This research will comprehensively respond to the identified needs of young adult female cancer survivors that hope to have a child after cancer through a novel intervention that provides information and support for decision making and early planning,” says Dr. Benedict, “The long-term goal of the proposed research is to improve oncofertility care in post-treatment survivorship.”

Dr. Benedict’s career is focused on the treatment of cancer survivors’ coping with late/long-term effects including physical, emotional, and interpersonal difficulties. She also specializes in young adult cancer survivorship, addressing the unique issues that arise when cancer occurs at a young age. Her research focuses on improving cancer survivorship through better understanding of unmet needs and through the development of patient-centered behavioral interventions. Recent publications related to Dr. Benedict’s work include “Greater fertility distress and avoidance relate to poorer decision making about family building after cancer among adolescent and young adult female survivors” published in the journal Psychooncology, and “"Looking at future cancer survivors, give them a roadmap": addressing fertility and family-building topics in post-treatment cancer survivorship care.” published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.

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