Fertility and Women With Cancer

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Other fertility-related issues to think about

Insurance and financial concerns

After reviewing treatments to preserve fertility, most people wonder if they can ever afford any of these options. Many of the tests that diagnose fertility are covered by insurance, but treatment costs are often not covered. Some states have laws that require varying amounts of coverage for infertility and IVF treatments. But many patients are not covered by these laws and many more live in states with no or limited coverage.

To get your insurance plan to help pay for infertility treatments, you must first call them and ask about the steps you need to take to petition for coverage. Some patients have been able to get infertility treatment covered when they explained or had their doctor show that the infertility was a side effect of a necessary cancer treatment.

The costs of infertility treatments are a major barrier for most patients. Still, there are options available for some people, even if they cannot get insurance to cover it.

Figure out which treatment might be an option for you, where you can get it, and what the costs are. It helps to speak with a financial counselor in the fertility practice and ask for details about the treatment, its costs, and even specific insurance codes for the services you might need. One tip is to ask the financial counselor to get written confirmation by letter from your insurance company about which costs are covered and which are not. At that point, you might need to sit down and review your finances. Consider what you have in your bank and retirement accounts, any lines of credit you have (including credit cards), or even if you can get help from family members.

Some practices provide treatment packages at a single price and some offer financing options to make treatment more affordable by paying for it over time. Ask if these options are available. Some practices may take part in the Fertile Hope financial assistance program called “Sharing Hope,” which reduces the costs of fertility preservation for qualifying patients. (Information about the Fertile Hope program can be found in the “To learn more” section.)

It’s hard to think about spending money on fertility while you are dealing with other medical bills and cancer. Another barrier is that often you must act fairly quickly to preserve fertility before cancer treatment begins. Getting financial help and counseling is a start and will help you feel less alone as you try to plan for a future after cancer. Most families would say it’s worth the effort even though it can be hard in the beginning.

Legal considerations

You might want to talk to an attorney (lawyer) about the fertility options you are considering and possible legal issues that may arise. An attorney can help you understand legal documents and your rights. Since you could be dealing with complex medical issues, find an attorney who’s familiar with reproductive technology legalities.

For example, if a spouse or partner dies after embryos are fertilized, would he or she be willing for the surviving partner to use them anyway? If you do not use all your fertilized embryos, what will you do with them? Would you be willing to donate them to others who need them? These kinds of possibilities need to be understood and worked out in advance. An expert attorney can help you with the complicated issues of assisted reproduction, donation of sperm or eggs, and surrogacy.

There are also specialized lawyers who work with adoption services. They can help the birth parents give up (terminate) their legal rights to the child and handle the adoption process. This can help ensure a smoother adoption with less fear and anxiety.

Mental health services

Dealing with your cancer treatment and fertility issues may stir up strong emotions. You might feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or depressed. Some of the drugs women take for in vitro fertilization or to preserve fertility can have emotional side effects, too. These feelings are normal. A mental health professional can help you adjust to your cancer diagnosis and help you deal with your feelings about your fertility. This expert can also help you deal with feelings of guilt, anger, loss, and disability. Your therapist should understand the impact of cancer on fertility and help you sort through decisions about your parenting options. Having a third party who’s not as emotionally involved as you and your partner are can be very helpful.

You may be able to find an infertility support group through your fertility specialist’s office. Couples who share their unique experiences often find a special bond and strength. Infertility can be a roller coaster of highs and lows. It helps to go through that with others who understand.

Child-free living

Many couples consciously decide to not have children and focus on its advantages. Child-free living allows a couple to pursue other life goals, such as career, travel, or volunteering in ways that help others. If you are unsure about having children, talk with your spouse or partner. Reaching a decision together may become an exciting new investment in your future as partners. If you still feel unsure, talking with a mental health professional may help you both think more clearly about the issues and make the best decision.


Last Medical Review: 11/06/2013
Last Revised: 11/06/2013