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The Role of Fertility Preservation Patient Navigators in Oncofertility Management

As you may have heard us mention a time or two before, the 3rd book in the oncofertility series, Oncofertility Medical Practice: Clinical Issues and Implementation, was just released on Amazon.com and is available for purchase. Besides just letting our readers know that important piece of information, we’d also like to give you an inside look into the wealth of knowledge this informative new book contains. To begin, let’s take a look into chapter 13, “Patient Navigation and Coordination of Care for the Oncofertility Patient: A Practical Guide,” by Kristin Smith, Brenda Efymow, and Clarisa Gracia to see the true role of patient navigators in oncofertility management.

Adolescents and young adults facing a new cancer diagnosis need immediate access to oncofertility care in order to maximize their fertility preservation options. In order to do this, patient navigators act as the go-between among a variety of health care providers including oncologists, and reproductive specialists, during a highly stressful and complex time following a cancer diagnosis. According to the authors, “Within the health care setting, the patient navigator bridges institutional and disciplinary boundaries so that cancer patients are able to receive timely information regarding fertility preservation options.” Once cancer patients receive this pertinent information, they are better able to make informed decisions about their course of treatment.

Cancer patients making the decision to preserve their fertility have a limited timeframe to process and make this decision that individuals not facing a cancer diagnosis often do not have to navigate. They do not have the time to flesh out their decision and/or save up for the expensive procedure.  According to the authors, “The average out-of-pocket cost for invitro fertilization (IVF) in the United states is $12,500.” A fertility preservation patient navigator can assist patients by directing them to programs established to defray the cost of fertility preservation, or draft appeal letters to insurance companies, which can result in a savings of thousands of dollars.

Finally, patient navigators act as the “experts” in fertility so that oncologists don’t have to be. They serve not only the patient, but also the provider, making a complex topic more accessible to healthcare professionals who may be uncomfortable with their level of knowledge in oncofertility, increasing the likelihood that they will not refer patients for consultation. At Northwestern, Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator Kristin Smith works closely with healthcare professionals, shepherding patients between specialists in oncology, urology, and reproductive endocrinology.  Kristin is also the face of the new Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator website, designed to provide virtual assistance to young patients wishing to learn about their reproductive options in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. To learn more about this website, read our blog, “Introducing the Virtual Patient Navigator for Fertility Preservation,” by Kate Waimey Timmerman, or click here to go directly to the website.

To learn more about the Patient Navigators’ role in fertility perseveration, read, “Patient Navigation and Coordination of Care for the Oncofertility Patient: A Practical Guide,” in Oncofertility Medical Practice: Clinical Issues and Implementation.


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