A cancer diagnosis is devastating for anyone, but women of childbearing age have additional worries. Will treatment leave them unable to have children? Is it possible to preserve their fertility and treat their disease?
Patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) now have a dedicated place to ask those questions. The Oncoreproduction Clinic launched in October, providing on-site care for newly diagnosed women who are concerned about the impact of cancer treatment on their ability to start or expand their families and maintain a healthy reproductive life.
The clinic is staffed by reproductive endocrinologists with expertise in fertility and cancer who can help define next steps.
Depending upon how soon cancer treatment needs to begin, that might include egg freezing, embryo freezing and/or genetic testing. For patients who need to start chemotherapy immediately, drugs can be administered to interrupt communication between the brain and the ovaries, potentially protecting egg follicles from toxicity.
UW Medicine offers comprehensive oncoreproductive care to women and men at its Roosevelt clinic campus, but the goal of this new location is to reduce barriers for patients, including those who are newly diagnosed and overwhelmed with information.
“We have been taking care of patients at the university, but it can be hard for them to move between two different facilities, seeing several doctors and running back and forth,” says Dr. Genevieve Neal-Perry, director of the new clinic and reproductive endocrinology and infertility at SCCA and UW Medicine. “It’s really about helping our patients on site so we can reduce their stress and provide seamless care.”
Additionally, some oncologists are concerned that there’s not enough time to complete fertility preservation before starting chemo. “It has really depended on your clinical care team as to whether fertility was on their list of things to discuss,” says Dr. Neal-Perry. “We are here to help physicians understand how it can fit into their cancer treatment timeline.”
The new clinic is part of the Livestrong Network, which invites patients to apply for financial assistance. Fertility preservation, like infertility treatment of any kind, is not often covered by insurance. The clinic’s dedicated social worker will help patients navigate this process.
If you or your loved one is interested in consulting with a reproductive specialist, please contact your oncologist for a referral. For more information, contact the Oncoreproduction Clinic at 206-606-4100.