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Oncofertility: Fertility After Cancer

oncofertilityOncofertility studies the reproductive future of cancer survivors.  With cancer survival rates among people of childbearing age skyrocketing, oncofertility is an increasingly importaint field of stufy.  Nearly a half a million young people each year overcome cancer.  However, treatments can compromise a cancer patient’s ability to later have children. Emerging technologies give patients and their families options at the time of diagnosis such as the cryopreservation of sperm and eggs.

Young cancer patients may not be aware that oncofertility options are available. This is especially true of teens and young adults for whom having children is still some years away.

“Let’s say you’re diagnosed with breast cancer. Your doctor might say, ‘The treatment might affect your fertility, but let’s figure out how we’re going to go ahead and save your life’. That brief sentence might be considered oncofertility counseling—and the depth of your counseling can have a real impact on your quality of life as a survivor”  – Dr. Mitchell Rosen, Dir. Fertility Preservation program University of California

Dr. Rosen, recently published of a study on oncofertility trends that found that while 61% were counseled on the impact of cancer treatments on fertility, only 4% of surveyed female patients took steps to preserve their eggs or embryos.  Read more about Dr. Rosen’s study in this Huffington Post article.

Research indicates that cost could be the largest obstacle.

Oncofertility is rarely covered by health insurance. Men who participate in sperm banking can expect to pay about $800 for the initial collection and then between $200-400 per year for storage.Treatments for women are much more expensive, starting at a minimum of $8,000 and easily increasing to more than $20,000.

Reform such as Sacramento’s landmark bill requiring insurers to provide fertility options to cancer patients, may help to make oncofertility more accessible. The cost to the provider would be minimal, according to the California Health Benefits Review Program, and would save money in the long run. Research shows that patients facing loss of their reproductive ability often choose less effective treatments, or delay care and as a result get sicker over time necessitating more medical attention and additional expenses. Until reform is realized, however, patients must foot the bill.

Online fundraising sites like GiveForward, are helping to allay interim costs.

Cristina Dosal Alampi  was diagnosed with breast cancer in August of 2011. Because her cancer is affected by estrogen levels, Cristina must take a drug that stops estrogen production. This can be detrimental to a woman’s fertility.  Her doctors recommended embryo preservation, but as is often the case, it was not covered by her insurance; the $18,000 plus had to be paid for out-of-pocket. Oncofertility options for Cristy

This cost in addition to the myriads of expenses faced by Cristina (and other cancer patients) was daunting to say the least. However, using their GiveForward fundraising page, Cristina’s family and friends were able to raise $46,000.

 “I think my story could comfort other women who are faced with the same struggles I faced back in August. The money raised was an incredible help financially but more importantly, emotionally! I was flooded with love and that is what kept me strong throughout all of this!!” 

If your friend or loved one is battling cancer, consider starting a GiveForward fundraising page to help reduce the stress of oncofertility and other out-of-pocket medical expenses.

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