Cancer treatment greatly reduces a person’s ability to have biological children in many cases. Certain types of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery interfere with the reproductive system often in irreparable ways, rendering the patient infertile. The term describing this type of infertility is iatrogenic.
Most patients who suffer iatrogenic infertility are able to anticipate the risk to their fertility prior to any lifesaving treatment and therefore seek out fertility preservation. Harvesting and preserving sperm, eggs or reproductive tissue makes it possible for the patient to have biological children in the future.
In some situations, the patient hasn’t yet contemplated the possibility of parenthood. If the doctor doesn’t discuss iatrogenic infertility prior to treatment, young men and women embarking on cancer treatment may lose their opportunity to ever have a biological child.
Preserving Your Fertility and Safeguarding Your Future
When a person receives a diagnosis of cancer, they are usually consumed with determining their best path to survival and probably don’t think about preserving their fertility. Even if they have always wanted children having a baby is likely very far from their mind at that juncture. However, it is precisely at this point the patient should discuss options for future fertility with their oncologist.
A cancer diagnosis leads to decisions that impact your entire life. Patients must make many of these decisions in just a short amount of time. From the best treatment for surviving the disease to helping ensure realization of your dream of future parenthood, you need to make crucial decisions and you need to do so fast.
There was a time when cancer patients simply accepted the idea they would never have a biological child. There were zero options to do otherwise. Today’s advances in reproductive technology now provide cancer patients with options. Now you are able to safeguard your future fertility to a great degree. It’s possible to cryogenically preserve eggs and sperm, or embryos, for future pregnancy.
Insurance Coverage for Infertility Treatment and Fertility Preservation
In some states in the US, it’s required by law that the insurer provides, at least to some degree, coverage for diagnosis and/or treatment of infertility. The catch-22 for cancer patients is that the coverage only applies after someone is infertile or struggling with fertility. There is no law regarding coverage for those patients who understand they will likely be infertile and want to proactively preserve their fertility.
Unfortunately, in most states insurers do not currently cover any type of infertility treatment, including fertility preservation, or any medical care related to infertility treatment. Medicine defines infertility as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over 35). It is not the same as iatrogenic infertility, however insurers don’t necessarily see a difference.
Currently, in the majority of states, cancer patients must quickly decide to go through with fertility preservation and then come up with a way to cover those costs. When insurers don’t offer to cover at least a portion of the fertility preservation for cancer patients it can be an overwhelming decision for someone already reeling from decision fatigue.
Changes Are Happening
Thankfully, coverage for fertility preservation for cancer patients is a hot topic right now and the situation is evolving. In the state of California as well as ten other states, the laws changed over the past few years.
Many states introduced bills compelling insurers to cover fertility preservation for cancer patients and others facing iatrogenic infertility. Connecticut and Rhode Island passed those measures into law in 2017 and some other states followed soon after. Suffice it to say there is a national trend toward coverage, albeit a slow one.
Discuss Your Options for Fertility Preservation
For those patients who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis and need advice and counseling regarding fertility preservation please contact LA IVF. Our compassionate and caring fertility professionals are here to help you understand and navigate the variety of options at your disposal. You’re facing a lot of changes in your life right now. We’re here to help.