TitleManaging Family Building Concerns After Cancer: A Qualitative Analysis Using a Reproductive Justice Lens
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsGorman, JR, Smith, E, Drizin, JH, Lyons, KS, Harvey, SM
JournalCancer Care Research Online
Date Published04/2022
ISBN Number2691-3623
Keywordsbreast cancer, Communication, dyadic, Fertility, qualitative, Reproductive Health, reproductive justice, Young Adult


Young adult breast cancer survivors (YABCS) and their partners commonly experience distress related to changes in their family building options.


To explore how YABCS and their partners appraised and managed family building after cancer to inform approaches to support these couples.


We conducted separate telephone interviews with 25 YABCS and their male partners. We used thematic analysis to examine individual interviews followed by analysis of responses within and across couples.


Themes were: (1) Purposeful discussion about family building plans with each other; (2) Balancing family building desires and priorities that do not always align; (3) Partners providing emotional and instrumental support for survivors; (4) Working toward finding a solution together; (5) Perception of limited choice; (6) Combination of time in life and cancer circumstance; (7) Access to financial resources and fertility care; and (8) Motherhood self-identity, social expectations, and assumptions.


Open communication facilitated shared appraisal and management of family building plans, which were influenced by both the cancer experience and stage of life. Participants emphasized a lack of choice and autonomy, describing ways that structural factors and social expectations around biological motherhood disrupted family building plans.

Implications for Practice

YABCS couples navigating family building would benefit from counseling focused on communication and consideration of each partner’s priorities based on circumstances, social expectations, and access to resources.

What Is Foundational

Interpersonal, contextual, and structural factors are important considerations when developing strategies to comprehensively support couples navigating the complexities of family building after cancer.