Pernille A. Gregersen, Mikkel Funding, Jan Alsner, Maja H. Olsen, Jens Overgaard, Steen F. Urbak, Sandra E. Staffieri, Stina Lou
Despite reporting an overall normal life, survivors of heritable retinoblastoma face numerous physical and psychosocial issues. In particular, reproductive decision-making is often complex and difficult. This study aims to examine survivors' reflections on passing on heritable retinoblastoma to their children, how survivors approach their reproductive choices, and how the healthcare system can optimize counseling and support. Semi-structured interviews with Danish adult survivors of heritable retinoblastoma were qualitatively analyzed to explore their experiences. Participants were recruited from the Retinoblastoma Survivorship Clinic, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark. Thematic data analysis was conducted followed by a condensing process specifically for the subthemes relating to reproductive choices. A common subtheme for all participants was a strong wish to avoid passing on retinoblastoma to their children. The participants emphasized the various medical, practical, emotional, and moral issues impacting their final reproductive choice in the process of family planning to conceive a child unaffected by retinoblastoma. Some had no option other than to conceive naturally and hope for an unaffected baby; while others weighed the pros and cons of choosing natural conception with prenatal testing and then considering termination of pregnancy (in case of an affected fetus) versus choosing fertility treatment with preimplantation genetic testing to achieve an unaffected pregnancy. Several participants underlined the complexity of their decisions, and also expressed feelings of guilt, both toward their affected child, and guilt for putting their partner through many difficult decisions and obstacles due to their genetic condition. Our findings demonstrate how one family-planning decision is not unequivocally “better” or easier than another. Healthcare professionals must provide the necessary information and tools to support the individual's unique decision-making process. Survivors' autonomy and individual needs, as well as the numerous and diverse aspects of heritable retinoblastoma, should be carefully considered.
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