Breast cancer patients are subject to the ‘cruel’ postcode lottery for IVF on the NHS

Here at IVFBabble, we often write about the cruel and arbitrary postcode lottery that leaves some people without any cover for vital fertility treatments. What is also shocking is that breast cancer patients are also subject to this brutal system too.

A recent study from the University of Sheffield, published in the Breast Journal, shows that some breast cancer patients are being denied the option to freeze their embryos or eggs for future IVF because they are considered ‘too old’ or ‘too overweight.’

The study looked at 209 English clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which control the funding from treatments such as IVF.

Fewer than a third of the CCGs in England give breast cancer patients unrestricted fertility preservation options as they prepare to undergo life-saving chemotherapy.

This shockingly low number conflicts with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance, which states that cancer patients should face no restrictions to preserve their fertility.

In fifteen CCGs, women older than 35 were denied the services. In more than fifty areas

Women with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 were denied, despite the fact that BMI has been proven an unreliable measure of individual health. Experts stress that women who need urgent cancer care do not have time to lose weight to meet the criteria set out by CCGs so that they can preserve their fertility.

Nearly 60% of CCGs denied these treatments to women who had children (or whose partners did), and 30% required the women to be non-smokers.

The lead author of the study, Isabella Dash, a consultant breast cancer surgeon in Bristol, stresses just how frustrating this is.

‘It is so difficult breaking the horrendous news to women that they have cancer and may not be able to have children. For them then to be told that they can’t freeze their embryos on the NHS because of arbitrary criteria like their weight and age just seems unfair and cruel.’

Shockingly, the study also found that 11 CCGs would only foot the bill for women to freeze embryos and not their eggs

This means that single women and those in same-sex relationships are excluded from NHS funding!

Director of fertility charity. the Progress Educational Trust, Sarah Norcross, thinks that things need to change soon

“As survival rates improve for young women with breast cancer, their future wellbeing needs to be considered and the opportunity to have a family is a key part of this. The fact some CCGs are depriving women of this opportunity is a national scandal.’

Women facing a long and difficult battle against breast cancer need to be supported in every way possible, not forced to make hard choices or go into debt for their future fertility

This is just one more example of why the postcode lottery must end. We are as passionate as ever at IVFbabble to fight for equality and fairness for all those affected.

What do you think of these rules for cancer patients? Have you been affected by the postcode lottery? We want to hear more about your experiences at claire@ivfbabble.com

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