When you are diagnosed with cancer, typically your main focus is to explore your treatment options:
These are all vitally important questions to ask yourself. One area that you may not think about, though, is future fertility preservation.
Planning for pregnancy prior to cancer treatment
Many types of chemotherapy and radiation are necessary for the fight against cancer. However, these therapies, especially those using alkaline agents, can severely diminish a person’s ovarian reserve, rendering them infertile. It’s important for oncologists and patients alike to take a person’s fertility into account if they’re of reproductive age at the time cancer treatment will begin.
If you may desire children in the future, our medical team is here to help you preserve your fertility by freezing eggs and embryos prior to beginning cancer treatment.
Our oncofertility care team
At SGF, we have a specially trained team that works specifically with people with cancer. We will work directly with your oncology team to ensure we expedite your fertility preservation so that cancer treatment can quickly begin. Known as the oncofertility team, they help guide you through each step of the treatment process, from finding ways to afford treatment to the actual medical procedure. Due to the time sensitivity with treatment, you can expect an expedited treatment plan and to see a physician for consultation as soon as possible.
Once you decide to move forward with treatment, it generally takes 2 to 3 weeks to complete stimulation of the ovaries for egg retrieval.
After a reproductive endocrinologist retrieves your eggs, an embryologist will freeze them using vitrification technology. Your eggs will be available when you have completed your cancer treatment and you have been cleared to move forward with attempting pregnancy. Use of these eggs in the future involves thawing the eggs, inseminating them with sperm, and transferring the embryo into your uterus. With frozen eggs, your success in achieving pregnancy is related to your age when you froze your eggs — not your age at the time you plan to use them.
No-cost medication program
HeartBeat from Ferring Pharmaceuticals provides select fertility medications at no cost for eligible patients. Qualifying patients must be female, be a US citizen or permanent resident, have received a diagnosis of cancer, and have received no chemotherapy within the previous 6 months. Oncologists and reproductive endocrinologists are required to determine that fertility preservation treatment is medically appropriate.
For more information and eligibility, call 888-347-3415. For residents of Arkansas, Massachusetts, or New Jersey, please call 877-252-0553.
Men with cancer
Men undergoing cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy are also at risk of damaging their reproductive organs and losing their fertility.
It is recommended for men to freeze sperm (sperm preservation) to protect their fertility prior to undergoing cancer treatment.
Sperm preservation is available through Fairfax Cryobank.
Maryland insurance mandate
Due to the efforts of SGF’s Drs. Mottla and Beall, and nurse Loretta Trumble, in addition to other collective efforts, on May 15, 2018, Maryland Governor Hogan signed the bill that will require insurers under the Maryland mandate to cover the expense of fertility preservation, sperm and egg freezing specifically, for people prior to medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, that likely would permanently damage a person’s reproductive ability.
Maryland was the first state in the nation to enact infertility insurance legislation and is now the third state that also covers fertility preservation for people with cancer prior to cancer treatment.