Could California Senate Bill 1972 signal hope is on the horizon?
At the beginning of this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society announced some very encouraging news. It reported there were 322,800 fewer deaths from breast cancer between1989 and 2015, representing an almost 40% decrease in mortality. Experts attribute this dramatic drop to both early detections via mammography and better treatments.
According to the Young Survival Organization, 12,150 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women under age 40. These women have unique challenges not only in terms of how the disease affects them but also about the impact the cancer treatment will have on their ability to get pregnant after treatment.
It is important for breast cancer patients to know they can have a full life after medical care, including being able to have children. Hope for a bright future can help improve their outlook while they experience the rigors of cancer therapy.
However, many women of reproductive age are not aware of the options for fertility preservation. Studies have shown that only a small percentage of oncologists refer patients to reproductive endocrinologists, instead prioritizing immediate treatment. Additionally, patients may feel reluctant to postpone therapy, not knowing if a delay is feasible.
Fertility preservation options
We are hopeful that the growing interdisciplinary field of oncofertility can change the conversation between oncologists and their patients. Successful preservation techniques have never been more promising without compromising cancer care.
Egg and embryo freezing are two effective methods that can ensure fertility well into the future. Single women can preserve fertility by freezing eggs while those with a partner or sperm donor can cryopreserve embryos prior to the initiation of chemotherapy or radiation.
At HRC Fertility, we have the ability to expedite IVF treatment and suggest cancer patients undergo at least one cycle, no matter the type of cancer. The patient would, of course, want to get medical clearance from her doctor. If the cancer is not very aggressive, then the patient may be able to complete more cycles to store additional eggs/embryos. We base medication dosage and length of treatment on their diagnosis and prognosis.
Paying for preservation is a roadblock
Paying for the unexpected expense of egg or embryo cryopreservation is a major impediment for many women. Some state governments, helped by fertility advocates, are taking steps to remedy the situation. They have passed legislation requiring insurance companies to pay for medically necessary coverage. In 2017, both Connecticut and Rhode Island passed this type of law.
California has not yet achieved this type of legislative victory, though hope is on the horizon. In 2017, SB-172 (SB means Senate Bill) was introduced by Senator Anthony Portantino, which would require ‘health care plans to pay for medical, hospital, surgical and other expenses for diagnoses with medical interventions that could or does lead to iatrogenic (caused by treatment) infertility.’ Though it has passed out of the Health Committee to the Senate Appropriations Committee, it subsequently was placed in the Appropriations Suspense file. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association supports this bill and encourages Californians to contact their state senators and members of the California Assembly to advocate for it.
Now is the time to act
It is devastating to face a cancer diagnosis when your adult life is in its earliest stages, but also heartbreaking to not be able to afford effective fertility preservation techniques. We urge both patients and professionals to let their elected officials know insurance carriers should pay for this type of medically necessary treatment. Find your California state legislator at this website: http://www.legislature.ca.gov/your_legislator.html
Resources for fertility preservation