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Surgical Oncologists Least Likely to Discuss Fertility Options with Patients

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 12, 2012

The three physician groups were similar in their relatively lower rates of patient referrals to reproductive specialists, which ranged between 40% and 46%.

Quinn says that it's important for all cancer patients to have this discussion with oncologists "regardless of what the treatment plan is," even if it's surgery, and even surgery on a part of the body that doesn't impact the reproductive system, "because you never know what's coming down the road.

"Nobody would have thought (a few years ago) that radiation to the brain would necessarily affect reproduction but it turns out it does, because it involves the thymus and the pituitary, and other types of endocrine function can be impacted."

Ability to afford fertility preservation treatments is an obvious issue, but Quinn says that Fertile Hope and Livestrong have programs that can help offset costs of preserving ovarian tissue or oocytes and embryos and insurance plans may in the future cover these strategies.

Quinn says "we've been arguing that this is a prophylactic measure in the same way that you don't need to become nauseous before you get anti-nausea medications and you don't need to loose your hair before insurance will pay for a wig."

"It shouldn't matter what your socioeconomic status is to get this information. It may be a shame if you can't avail yourself of it," she says. It should be required "both in a strict legal sense, and in a quality of life and well-being sense, because everybody should get this information."

 


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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