Family Planning After Cancer: Surrogacy

Cancer treatment can affect people in many different ways, but one we often don’t think about is the impact on an individual’s ability to have children.

People who have received cancer treatment and still want to have a family, but did not have the ability to preserve their fertility before treatment, may be unsure about their options.

One option for building a family is surrogacy.

Surrogacy is when a woman (called a surrogate mother) becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby in order to give that baby to someone who cannot have their own children.

Triage Cancer recently talked with Baby Bump Journeys, about the valuable role that Triage Cancer Baby Bump Journeyssurrogacy services can play in helping people achieve their dreams of building a family, even in the wake of a cancer diagnosis.

In 2012, The Huffington Post, wrote about the increased use of surrogacy services and explained the step-by-step process in this article.

The process of finding the right person to carry your child can seem like an insurmountable challenge, but surrogacy services can help you not only find a surrogate, but navigate the detailed process of ensuring you have the right legal protections in place.

It is important to understand that your surrogacy options may vary based on the laws in your state. Click here for information about gestational surrogacy laws across the United States.

Surrogacy services can not only connect you with a surrogate, but also with doctors and lawyers who can take care of your family’s needs during the surrogacy process.

For more information about this and other options for family planning after cancer, join Triage Cancer for our FREE webinar:

From Cancer Survivorship to Diaper Changes: Creating a Family After Cancer
May 18, 2016
12pm Pacific/3pm Eastern
Register here

April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month

Testicular Cancer FoundationThe National Cancer Institute estimated 8,820 new cases of testicular cancer for 2014, the most common cancer in males age 15-35. It is not all doom and gloom, however. Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers, especially if caught early. Be proactive! Men should perform monthly self-exams to check themselves. There are many videos on YouTube and other websites demonstrating how males can “Check ‘Em”. Testicular Cancer Foundation has a simple 3 step self-exam on its website, and they even offer to mail you a Shower Card that includes the self-exam instructions and information. They created the Shower Card to help parents deal with the awkwardness in talking with their sons. If a man finds any bumps or changes to his testicles, he should make an appointment with an urologist ASAP.

If a testicular cancer diagnosis is made, there are a few types of treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. All of these treatments can affect the reproductive system and may decrease fertility or cause infertility.

Sperm banking

It is important for medical staff to discuss fertility preservation and sperm banking with patients at the time of diagnosis. Sperm banking is a simple way to preserve fertility, with a generally high success rate. Specimens are collected through masturbation. Multiple collections (2-3) with 48 hour abstinence between collections is the ideal. It is best to collect before treatment begins. However, pregnancies have occurred from as little as one specimen and viable samples may be collected after some treatments have begun. Almost every fertility clinic has the ability to bank sperm, and some offer discounts for cancer patients. The costs for sperm freezing vary depending on the number of specimens banked and the charges for the blood tests (most blood tests can be done by the oncology team as part of the patient’s treatment), but generally can be completed for less than $1000. Storage fees also vary, between $275-500 annually, but there are financial assistance programs available. You can search for a sperm bank in your area on ReproTech’s website.

Mail-in kits

For men who are unable to travel to a facility to bank sperm, whether due to illness or location, mail-in kits are available. ReproTech’s OverNite Male™ Kit is the original mail-in kit, and it remains the most economical. The cost of the kit, shipping and the first year of storage is $575 and financial assistance is available.

Financial Assistance

There are organizations that will provide financial assistance for sperm banking/fertility preservation services, but fertility clinics that participate in LIVESTRONG’s Fertility Discount Program are a good bet. Some clinics may not participate in LIVESTRONG’s program, but they MAY offer their own discounts to cancer patients – be sure to ask!

Cancer Treatment & Fertility: How to get the information you need

by Anne Norman, LIVESTRONG Fertility Services Navigation LIVESTRONG Foundation

Down in Austin, Texas, the members of the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s fertility team work to provide men and women with a cancer diagnosis the opportunity to become parents after treatment. The Fertile Hope program is one initiative under the umbrella of Cancer Navigation Services at the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Our navigators spend their days speaking to cancer patients and caregivers all over the U.S. We work to connect individuals with resources that will make their cancer journey less arduous.

The program’s mission is two-fold. We want to educate about the risk of infertility due to cancer treatment and provide opportunities to create families despite a cancer diagnosis.

So, how does cancer treatment impact fertility, anyways? It all depends on the individual: the cancer diagnosis, the plan for treatment, and the patient’s timeline. For example, chemotherapy kills rapidly diving cells in the body, including sperm. A lowered sperm count, post-treatment, may render a man infertile.  On our website, you can calculate your individualized fertility risk.

One goal of Fertile Hope is to make sure that every cancer patient discusses fertility preservation with a healthcare provider before undergoing treatment. It is important that patients understand all of their options. Technological advances allow fertility preservation conversations to occur at any point during cancer treatment. However, the best chance at successful preservation remains before cancer treatment. This is why we want to start a dialogue between patient and healthcare provider early on.

In order to make an opportunity a reality, the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s Fertile Hope program offers financial assistance to clients who may not be ready to be parents before treatment, but hope to become parents one day. Through partnerships with sperm banks and fertility clinics across the nation, Fertile Hope clients are receiving discounted fertility preservation. Centers that the Foundation works with provide our clients with at least a 25% discount. For women, we are also able to provide –one round of free fertility medications, donated by EMD Serono, which amounts to almost $4,200 in savings per woman. Since Fertile Hope’s inception in 2004, our clients saved over $12 million in fertility center discounts and medication costs.

While all these resources exist, each cancer patient or caregiver of a cancer patient carries a responsibility—be your own fertility advocate. One of our past clients, Sarah, has a story that demonstrates the power that asking questions and seeking support can yield.

Make sure fertility preservation has a box on the checklist. And, when you’re ready, we will be waiting by the phone.

Fertile Hope is a program of the LIVESTRONG Foundation dedicated to providing reproductive information, support and hope to cancer patients and survivors whose medical treatments present the risk of infertility. If you have fertility-related questions or would like more information related to the Foundation’s financial assistance program, call toll-free 855.220.7777, or complete an online intake form for the LIVESTRONG Navigation Services program. 

The LIVESTRONG Foundation provides free cancer support services to help people cope with the financial, emotional and practical challenges that accompany the disease. Created in 1997 by cancer survivor and philanthropist Lance Armstrong, the Foundation is known for its powerful brand — LIVESTRONG — and for its advocacy on behalf of survivors and their families. With its iconic yellow LIVESTRONG wristband, the Foundation has become a symbol of hope and inspiration around the world. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $500 million to support cancer survivors and served 2.5 million people affected by the disease. For more information, visit

Triaging Fertility Preservation & the AMA

This post addresses a recent advancement in the the issue of insurance coverage for fertility preservation.  We first highlighted this issue in the post Insuring Against Infertility.

by Raphael Yechieli, M.D.
Caduceus with First-aid Kit

The American Medical Association (AMA) just adopted a new policy supporting coverage of fertility preservation for cancer patients. This is a big deal. A recent study from California highlighted that only 2 – 4% of women eligible for fertility preservation actually underwent the process. The guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American Society of Clinical Oncology are both unequivocal. Infertility as a side effect of treatment must be spoken about and fertility preservation should be offered to anyone whose fertility may be compromised by the treatment being offered. Alas, we can shout from the rooftops about the importance of fertility preservation, but without routine insurance coverage, these guidelines will be an impracticable recommendation.

Over 150,000 people under the age of 45 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Treatments continue to improve, and long-term survival is becoming the norm; but many carry their battle scars long after the war is won. With a renewed focus on survivorship, the quality-of-life and healthcare issues that arise after treatment are now recognized as an important part of the cure. One particularly difficult side-effect of some cancer treatments is their effect on fertility. The same features that allow these treatments to be so effective in treating the cancer are what make them so harmful to the person’s future fertility.

Benjamin Franklin said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Regarding fertility after cancer treatment, the more appropriate saying is “An ounce of prevention is the only cure.”  Fertility preservation prior to treatment is the best way to protect a person’s ability to have children in the future. The options available for survivors, especially women, have previously been limited. This is changing, with the emergence over the past few years of oncofertility, an interdisciplinary field founded at the junction of cancer and fertility. The advances in research and development are very exciting, and will provide people with options that were impossible just a few years ago.

Since 1998, the federal Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHRCA) mandates that insurers cover breast reconstruction if they covered the mastectomy. In fact, treatment of almost every side-effect from cancer treatment is covered by insurance, except for fertility preservation. Even in states with mandated infertility coverage, fertility preservation is not covered, because the person has yet to be diagnosed with infertility!

Last week, a very important step was taken. The Michigan delegation to the AMA presented Resolution 114, asking the AMA to support payment for and lobby for appropriate federal legislation requiring coverage for fertility preservation when cancer treatments may cause infertility. After hearing impassioned testimony from the Michigan delegation and multiple other delegations including medical groups at the intersection on cancer and fertility, the resolution was accepted by the AMA.

The advocacy will continue on the state and federal level. Currently, a bill is working its way through the California legislature, and similar bills are being prepared in other states as well. We will continue to work, one step at a time, to make sure that every person gets the care they need.

Raphael Yechieli M.D. is currently the chief resident of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit MI and a delegate to the AMA from the Michigan State Medical Society’s Resident and Fellow Section. He is passionate about survivorship and advocacy, and spends his time working together with his team to build hope, and destroy cancer.