A recent letter to the editor in the Seattle Times addressed the pressing need for more equitable infertility care
Specifically, the letter references Washington State’s Legislature (HB 1730 / SB 5647), which will mandate health insurance plans to cover infertility care for residents.
Lynn Bentley Davis, MD, MS, writes that “the fertility bill currently before the is vital for helping those most in need.Every year there are young Washingtonians diagnosed with cancer before they have even started their family. Unfortunately, lifesaving cancer treatment often renders patients infertile.”
But did you know that the situation is similar in the UK?
While most people assume fertility preservation is covered for children and young people with cancer, it is a ‘postcode lottery.” A recent article in the British Medical Journal reports, “children and young people with cancer in the UK face something of a funding lottery for services to preserve their fertility, with specialist treatment centres heavily reliant on charities to stump up the cash needed, particularly in England.”
Even in the areas of the UK with NHS-funded fertility preservation for cancer patients, the treatments are not always easy to access. Currently, Covid-related delays mean that all aspects of care are under strain and long waits are common.
This is unconscionable for young people facing a cancer diagnosis
Along with the fear, pain, and panic of dealing with cancer treatment, they’re also forced to worry that they will never have a future family.
In the US, health insurance is always a gamble – not every state has the same rules and laws, and infertility treatment is covered by some plans and not others. While cancer treatments are covered, fertility preservation is not usually included.
According to Dr Bentley Davis, in Washington State, “health insurance will cover many cancer-treatment costs, including medications for nausea and fatigue, breast reconstruction surgery, and even wigs, yet somehow fertility-preservation services including egg and sperm freezing for resulting infertility are excluded.”
We tend to think of the UK as having more equitable healthcare coverage and being worlds away from the US’s private system, but on this issue, they share a lot in common. Children and young people with cancer should be focusing on fighting for their lives.
They shouldn’t have to stress and worry about their lost fertility
Dr Bentley Davis concludes, “this is illogical, and it further jeopardizes a patient’s well-being during the most vulnerable time in their life. Cancer survivorship is at an all-time high, and studies show that maintaining hope for children with fertility preservation is among the most important issues affecting the quality of life.”
“People with cancer simply do not have access to the full spectrum of care they need. It is crucial that Washington pass this essential family building measure.” The same can be said for Whitehall!
What do you think about fertility preservation for young people with cancer? Should it be covered on the NHS, or should each county decide on its own? We want to hear your thoughts and experiences.