A recent study suggests that cancer survivors that are left infertile by the disease of treatment may face unexpected hurdles if they later turn to adoption to start a family.
Earlier research found that among childhood cancer survivors, almost half of men and nearly a third of women are infertile.
Researchers found that while all prospective parents were asked to provide a medical history by adoption agencies, cancer survivors might also be required to submit letters from physicians or show they were disease free for at least five years.
According to the lead researcher of the study, some survivors have no trouble getting this medical clearance while others have had difficulty with the letter.
While cancer survivors often view adoption as a viable option for addressing infertility, unfortunately many do not realize the intensive logistics involved or the potential barriers imposed by an oncology diagnosis.
In the current study, 77 oncology nurses trained in reproductive health and family-building for adolescent and young adult cancer survivors contacted adoption agencies in 15 states and interviewed administrators or intake counselors.
During the interviews, questions broached topics such as adoption fees, the number of cancer survivors the agency sees, and any added application steps required for cancer survivors, as well as whether women placing babies for adoption might have reservations about prospective parents with a history of cancer.
Adoption fees ranged from a low of $3,000 to a high of $75,000 and were typically around $20,000 to $30,000.
Although these fees were not any higher for cancer survivors than other applicants, they can be considerably more burdensome for people who also had steep bills associated with the costs of their cancer care.
Not all agencies tracked adoption applications by cancer survivors the ones who did reported an average of 10 a year.
More than half of the adoption agencies said a cancer history might be seen as a positive for the birth mother looking for parents who have overcome hardships and have an appreciation for life.
Unfortunately, some birth mothers may reject prospective parents based on a cancer diagnosis in the past out of fear that the applicant’s life expectancy was not a good option.
Patients and their families can really benefit from talking with their providers about whether their treatments pose a risk of infertility and if so, whether fertility preservation options are available to them.