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Efficacy of a Web-Based Psychoeducational Intervention for Young Adults With Fertility-Related Distress Following Cancer (Fex-Can): Randomized Controlled Trial

Micaux, C., Wiklander, M., Eriksson, L. E. ORCID: 0000-0001-5121-5325 , Wettergren, L. & Lampic, C. (2022). Efficacy of a Web-Based Psychoeducational Intervention for Young Adults With Fertility-Related Distress Following Cancer (Fex-Can): Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Cancer, 8(1), e33239. doi: 10.2196/33239

Abstract

Background:
Threatened fertility following cancer diagnosis in the reproductive age may severely impact emotional and psychosocial well-being in survivorship. Effective web-based interventions for fertility-related distress have been lacking.

Objective:
This study aims to test whether the Fertility and Sexuality following Cancer (Fex-Can) intervention is superior to standard care in reducing fertility-related distress and related psychosocial outcomes in young adults with cancer.

Methods:
This randomized controlled trial evaluated a 12-week, web-based, automated self-help intervention for fertility-related distress following cancer—Fex-Can Fertility. Individuals were identified via Swedish national quality registries, and those reporting fertility-related distress 1.5 years after diagnosis were invited. A total of 100 women and 24 men (aged 19-40 years) answered self-administered surveys at baseline (T0), directly after the intervention (T1), and 3 months later (T2). The main outcome was fertility-related distress, which was measured by using the 6-dimension Reproductive Concerns After Cancer (RCAC) scale. The secondary outcomes were health-related quality of life (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire), emotional distress (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), fertility-related knowledge, and fertility self-efficacy. In addition, the intervention group (IG) reported self-perceived changes in problems related to fertility after cancer (T1). 2-tailed t tests and linear mixed models, including intention-to-treat and subgroup analyses, were performed to compare the effects of the intervention with those of standard care.

Results:
Although 62% (31/50) of the participants in the IG stated that their concerns about fertility were fewer after the intervention, there were few statistically significant group differences in the main outcome (RCAC) at T1 and T2. Compared with controls, the IG rated lower distress concerning the dimension child’s health at T2 (P=.003; effect size [ES]=0.64). This difference was maintained when adding group and time interactions (intention-to-treat: P=.003; ES=0.58). The IG also had better self-perceived cancer-related fertility knowledge at T1 (P=.05; ES=0.35) and T2 (P=.01; ES=0.42) than the control group. Subgroup analyses based on dose or adherence and baseline RCAC scores did not substantially alter these results. Overall, the use of the web-based program was low.

Conclusions:
The Fex-Can intervention had small to moderate positive effects on cancer-related fertility knowledge and distress related to child’s health. The lack of group differences in other dimensions of fertility distress and related secondary outcomes contrasted with reports on self-perceived improvement after the intervention. The Fex-Can Fertility program may be a useful complement to routine psychosocial support in the clinical care of young women and men with cancer.

Trial Registration:
ISRCTN Registry 36621459; https://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN36621459

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: ©Claire Micaux, Maria Wiklander, Lars E Eriksson, Lena Wettergren, Claudia Lampic. Originally published in JMIR Cancer (https://cancer.jmir.org). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Cancer, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://cancer.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
Publisher Keywords: cancer; fertility distress; psychoeducation; randomized controlled trial; web-based
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Nursing
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