Babies after cancer: charity helps young people preserve chances of fertility

Future fertility is an important factor for young people diagnosed with cancer to consider. Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty

A charity that helps young people preserve their chance of fertility after cancer has boosted its funding for women.

Through Fertile Future’s Power of Hope: Cost Reduction Program, women can now apply for up to $2,500 to go toward egg freezing, subject to a sliding scale based on income.

“It helps subsidize fertility preservation for young men and women before they go in for fertility threatening cancer treatment,” said Jessica Séguin, executive director of Fertile Future.

Séguin said many people don’t even think about young people getting cancer, never mind the effect on fertility after the cancer battle. The Ottawa-based organization has helped people as young as 15 preserve the chance of becoming a biological parent.

“It’s not every single cancer treatment that will pose a threat to fertility, but most of them do,” said Séguin.

“Women are put into medical menopause.”

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One aspect of the charity’s efforts is advocating for fertility after cancer to be planned in advance, and not an afterthought by medical professionals.

“They [medical professionals] tend to think mostly about just the cancer and the treatment, not life beyond cancer.”

Fertile Future was founded in 2008 and the cost reduction program was implemented in 2010.

“The cost can be quite prohibitive, especially for women,” said Séguin, who pegs the cost for women to freeze their eggs at between $6,000 and $10,000.

“For women it’s especially prohibitive because it’s also very invasive, and they’ve got a smaller window, whereas for men it can be a little bit easier to go and retrieve those samples.”

The organization has what it calls “power of hope partner clinics” that have agreed to reduce their fees by at least a third, if not more.

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Previously the charity offered women $1,000 to help with the process. Now, depending on a woman’s income, she can be eligible for up to $2,500. Men are eligible to receive up to $350.

Séguin hopes that with the increased funding, the option will be within reach for more women.

“These past couple of years, the majority of women who apply for the program are in the income range of $0 – $50,000. So we’re hoping that this increase — even though we’d like to pay for the whole thing — we’re hoping that will make it that much more obtainable.”

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Currently Quebec is the only province or territory to offer full in-vitro fertilization funding.

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Manitoba has a Fertility Treatment Tax Credit which reimburses up to 40 per cent of costs for treatments within the province, to a maximum of $8,000 per year.

New Brunswick offers a special assistance fund by way of a one-time grant, refunding up to 50 per cent of eligible fertility expenses up to $5,000.

Ontario is implementing funding for fertility treatments, but full details have yet to be released.

READ MORE: Why funding in vitro fertilization treatments could save Alberta Health money

Many young men are helped by the service as well. Séguin says the cost to preserve men’s fluids are far lower than the cost to freeze women’s eggs, so more men are financially able to do so.

In the last five years the program has helped 360 people; in its last fiscal year it helped 35 women and 49 men.

“We want to see the number grow,” Séguin said. “We want to help as many people as possible.”

“We want to see that everyone who is given that diagnosis has the option to preserve their fertility, regardless of the cost.”

Fertile Future is a registered charity and does not receive any government funding or grants; all Canadians are eligible to apply for its cost reduction program.


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