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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 LIVESTRONG.org

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