Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can be sterilizing. There are a number of ways for newly diagnosed patients to preserve their fertility before starting their cancer treatments as well as options for parenthood after cancer, even if fertility preservation wasn’t done.
For men, the go-to fertility preservation treatment is sperm banking. For women, it’s more complicated. Until now, the only “standard” option available was embryo freezing. However, creating an embryo requires sperm – from a male partner or sperm donor – which not all young adult cancer patients have access to or want to use. There are other fertility preservation options for women, but the one favored by many young adult cancer patients – egg freezing– has been considered experimental, which means that fewer centers offer it and insurance coverage is nonexistent.
Fortunately, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the professional organization for reproductive endocrinologists and infertility specialists, has removed the experimental label from egg freezing. The move to re-classify egg freezing as “standard treatment” is due to the success rates with new techniques to freeze and thaw eggs that have been developed in the past 5-10 years.
This is a tremendous breakthrough for adolescent and young adult women with cancer whose future fertility may be impaired as a result of their life-saving cancer directed therapy. Re-classifying egg freezing as a standard option enables more young cancer patients to freeze eggs before treatment increasing the likelihood that they can have a biologic child in the future. And, health insurance is certainly more likely to cover some or all of the expenses in a procedure that is “standard” not “experimental.”
The move to reclassify egg freezing as a standard treatment began with Fertile Hope, the national non-profit group that has tirelessly fought to raise awareness, provide education, and offer financial assistance for fertility preservation to young adults diagnosed with cancer. Fertile Hope is now a program of LIVESTRONG that continues the fight to ensure people facing a cancer diagnosis have support throughout their treatment and into survivorship. The impact of this designation change is best shown through the words of Lindsay Beck, a cancer survivor, who describes what this experience meant for her.
“Egg freezing was the best option for me as a single, 24-year old woman facing a potentially sterilizing chemotherapy regime. Freezing my eggs allowed me to preserve my fertility and my reproductive autonomy, both of which were important to me. It was also incredibly hopeful to actively plan for the future – the idea of being a parent one day gave me a reason to fight.”
LIVESTRONG Fertile Hope supports ASRM’s re-classification of egg freezing to “standard treatment” and,will continue to offer financial assistance for egg freezing.