Featuring: Kara Goldman, MD
In the United States, more than 3.6 million reproductive-age women lack geographic access to an oncofertility center
CHICAGO – August 10, 2023 – Certain cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can negatively impact a patient’s ability to have children. In the United States, nearly 6% of women will develop invasive cancer by the age of 50, and female cancer survivors are approximately 50% more likely to develop clinical infertility compared with noncancer survivors. Fertility preservation prior to the start of cancer treatment is an urgent and essential component of cancer care, but for many patients, geographic proximity to an oncofertility center is an obstacle.
New research published in JAMA Oncology shows that more than 3.6 million reproductive-age females lack geographic access to oncofertility services, and a geospatial analysis identified regions of the country with disproportionately low geographic access. States with fertility preservation insurance mandates, legislation making urgent egg and embryo freezing more affordable and accessible, are the same states where nearly 100% of reproductive-age women have geographic access to an oncofertility center. This study highlights stark disparities between states like Illinois, where at-risk individuals have nearly ubiquitous geographic access to care and extensive insurance mandates, and neighboring states like Missouri, Indiana, and Wisconsin, where at-risk patients struggle with limited geographic access, no insurance mandate, or both.
“Fertility preservation is a critical part of comprehensive cancer care, but procedures like egg and embryo freezing are time-intensive, expensive, and highly specialized. Given the urgent nature of fertility preservation in the face of cancer, it is critically important that patients have both geographic and financial access to this care,” said Kara Goldman, MD, corresponding author of the study, and medical director of fertility preservation at Northwestern Medicine Center for Fertility and Reproductive Medicine.
STUDY OVERVIEW AND RESULTS
From 2021 to 2022, researchers analyzed locations of all fertility clinics identified through the 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report, along with data from the 2020 U.S. Census, identifying the primary at-risk population as reproductive-aged women 15 to 44-years-old. They looked at those who lived within a two-hour travel-time radius of clinics that offer fertility preservation services, and evaluated how this intersects with the state-based insurance mandates for fertility preservation coverage.
“By integrating geographic and legal considerations into our analysis, we were able to identify regions of the country that are currently underserved,” said Nivedita Potapragada, co-first author of the study and a medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our analysis highlights the importance of addressing these geographic disparities, especially with the demand for oncofertility services continuing to grow."
To hear Dr. Goldman discuss the study, listen to the JAMA Oncology podcast.
To learn more about oncofertility services at Northwestern Medicine, visit nm.org.
This article was originally published in the Northwestern Medicine Newsroom on August 10, 2023.
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