April 22nd-28th: National Infertility Awareness Week

April 22-28, 2012 is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), a nationwide campaign intended to educate the public about infertility and the concerns of the infertility community.  This year’s theme is “Don’t Ignore Infertility,” with an emphasis on speaking out about the realities of infertility, and acknowledging that infertility is a medical condition with far-reaching social and emotional implications, thereby breaking the silence surrounding this life-altering condition.

I think this year’s theme particularly resonates with the young cancer community who often find themselves advocating for their own fertility in the face of cancer.  The Oncofertility Consortium and the AYA cancer community work tirelessly to ensure that fertility counseling and preservation options are incorporated into cancer treatment plans for newly diagnosed cancer patients with reproductive potential so that they have fertility options as they transition to survivorship.

Together, in support of this very important health awareness week, we can educate millions of people about a condition that is often overlooked or misunderstood by healthcare professionals, insurance companies, and even family members. RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, has put together a number of ways that you can show your support for NIAW, which we decided to tweak a bit for the cancer community. Take a look!

  • Don’t ignore opportunities to talk about infertility.   Take advantage of opportunities to share information about or bring attention to the cause of infertility, particularly if you are a young cancer survivor who has experience with fertility issues.
  • Don’t ignore legislation affecting infertility patients.  Several pending and existing laws encroach upon the rights of the infertile to freely build their families. Help change policy and protect your rights. Advocate for infertility insurance coverage in your state.
  • Don’t ignore infertility support available.  Infertility is a lonely road, but no one has to travel it alone. Find support networks such as “Starting a Family After Cancer,” with Gilda’s Club Chicago.
  • Don’t ignore people struggling with infertility.  Reach out to friends or family members struggling with infertility. Ask how you can best support them in their journey.
  • Don’t ignore family building alternatives.  You can build your family through many paths (adoption, surrogacy, donor eggs, etc…). During this week, open your mind to options that you had not previously considered.
  • Don’t ignore your own strength. Be your own best advocate. If you are faced with a cancer diagnosis, don’t wait for your healthcare provider to talk to you about your fertility options, be the first to ask them.

In celebration of NIAW, take control of your reproductive health and recognize the importance of ensuring that we incorporate fertility options into comprehensive care plans for all newly diagnosed pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer patients.