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On the Front Lines of Fertility Preservation

We are proud to announce that the International Society for Fertility Preservation newsletter for Fall, 2011 will include an article on the significant work of  Patient Navigators  in this field.  Read the reprint below!


Cancer and its treatment often impair the future fertility of young cancer patients. Since the 1970s, simultaneous advances in cancer treatment and reproductive technologies have paved the way for increased cancer survivorship and successful treatment of infertility. Treatments for other conditions, such as rheumatologic, neurologic, and hematologic diseases may also cause fertility loss. To maximize the numbers of young survivors who can fully recognize their reproductive potential, significant hurdles—in the education, navigation, and support of patients and providers—must be overcome. With that in mind, the first Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator position was established in conjunction with the Oncofertility Consortium in 2007. This new position allowed a single person to shepherd patients between their disease specialist, such as an oncologist, and reproductive treatment team.

The Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator at the Oncofertility Consortium, Kristin Smith, is pivotal to providing streamlined care to young patients looking to preserve fertility. She provides triage services and comprehensive counseling for newly diagnosed cancer patients, both in person and for patients across the country through the FERTLINE national hotline [866-708-FERT (3378)]. This critical position addresses each patient’s fertility needs within the context of their individually tailored cancer management strategy, taking into consideration the priorities of both the patient and the disease specialist. The navigator provides highly personalized support services by helping young cancer patients and their families move through the sometimes challenging intersection of cancer therapy and fertility preservation treatments.

In addition to discussing options with patients, a Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator helps them navigate the complex details of fertility preservation. Depending on a patient, Smith may discuss a variety of financial, legal, ethical, or religious issues, often based on the scholarship of researchers within the Oncofertility Consortium and around the world. She works with patients and insurance companies to have fertility preservation procedures covered by health care plans, and with financial programs, such as Sharing Hope, to get discounts for fertility preservation drugs, and negotiates discounts from individual fertility providers for patients. She also works with patients as they make legal decisions about stored tissue, gametes, or embryos. Furthermore, Smith discusses consent issues for minors and the integration of fertility preservation with religious traditions in her work.

As a unique leader in the fertility preservation field, Kristin Smith also disseminates best practices to clinical specialists as they increase patient oncofertility care. She communicates patient educational tools, resources for providers, and her experiences leading a quarterly Oncofertility Forum for local providers to discuss recent fertility preservation cases. For more information on setting up and improving fertility preservation services, contact oncofertility@northwestern.edu.

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