More and more healthcare organizations, hospitals, and clinics are interested in learning about fertility preservation and how exactly an oncofertility program is developed. The Oncofertility Consortium holds a 1-day course entitled, Clinic 101, to teach health care providers the necessary steps involved in developing their own fertility preservation program or ways to strengthen their existing program. Nonetheless, we understand that not everyone can make it to Chicago for this course so a few of our Consortium members put together a little “how-to” to help you get started. In “Setting Up an Oncofertility Program,” in Oncofertility Medical Practice: Clinical Issues and Implementation, authors H. Irene Su, Lindsay Ray, and R. Jeffrey Chang, provide a first hand account of what is needed to build an oncofertility program through their experience developing a program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
First, starting an oncofertility team requires engaging a medical team with various clinical backgrounds: oncologist, reproductive endocrinologist, urologist, patient navigator/nurse, anesthesiologist, supportive oncology, etc., to commit to communicating and working together from the onset of diagnosis through survivorship. Often, the oncologist and reproductive endocrinologist are the ones to assemble the oncofertility team, in part because they are the clinicians involved in the immediate diagnosis and aftermath of a cancer diagnosis in a pediatric, adolescent, or young adult cancer patient. Collective expertise in managing oncofertility patients is crucial to a successful treatment plan.
Another important aspect of building an oncofertility program is to establish a marketing/communications team to help educate health care providers and medical practices’ about fertility preservation. It is also imperative for the marketing team to reach the local pediatric and young adult cancer community to encourage young cancer patients and their caregivers to be proactive in their cancer care so they can make informed decisions about their course of treatment. Websites, grand rounds, exhibits, educational materials, and resources all help to facilitate effective outreach efforts.
Finally, after a clinical team has been established and outreach and marketing efforts put in place, an oncofertility program needs a financial counselor to assist patients in locating resources to defray the cost of fertility preservation. At this time, most fertility preservation treatments are not covered by insurance. This can have a strong influence on a cancer patient’s decision to pursue oncofertility services; however, knowledgeable financial counselors can help direct patients to the appropriate financial assistance programs and help negotiate oncofertility packages in their own institutions.
To learn more about building a fertility preservation program, please read, “Setting Up an Oncofertility Program,” in Oncofertility Medical Practice: Clinical Issues and Implementation.