Talking to Your Patients about Cancer and Fertility: Support for Oncologists

Because some cancer treatments can affect fertility in the future, patients of reproductive age can benefit greatly by learning about their fertility risks and family building options before treatment begins.

When patients receive fertility information early in the process, they have more options available to them. Conversely, patients who learn about the effects on their fertility after the fact can experience intensified feelings of regret and loss.

This article provides recommendations and resources for you or one of your clinical staff members to help you address cancer-related infertility with your patients. With this support, fertility assessment can become a routine part of patient triage.

Process for Addressing Fertility

The following chart shows a process for addressing fertility issues with your newly diagnosed patients as part of their clinical care.

Oncology Algorithm for Addressing Fertility

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Additionally, the following tools and resources can assist you in informing your patients about the fertility risks, options and resources available to them.

Assess Fertility Risks Based on Treatment Plan

After working together with your newly diagnosed patient to develop a cancer treatment plan, assess the patient’s fertility risks associated with the specific cancer, treatment and treatment duration. Use these tools to help:

Discuss Fertility Preservation and Parenthood Options

After you inform patients of possible fertility risks, they may be interested in finding out their fertility preservation and parenthood options, including non-reproductive options. The following tools and information can help you provide a general overview:

Refer Your Patient to a Fertility Specialist and Support Services

We can help you find ongoing care and support resources for your patients’ fertility and family-building needs.

  • This online Fertility Resource Guide is a searchable database of doctors and services, including reproductive endocrinologists and sperm banks, as well as financial assistance, adoption agencies and legal resources. Use this tool to help your patients continue planning their family-building options for the future.
  • LIVESTRONG Fertility Services provides free support and education to those whose cancer treatments present the risk of infertility. Eligible patients can get connected with fertility centers and apply for financial assistance programs for certain family-building options.