This is Infertility is a bi-weekly podcast where we fuse narrative storytelling with experience and science to give you a new perspective on what it’s really like to go through a family building journey. Each episode dives into the emotional, physical, and financial burdens carried by those who experience infertility on their path to parenthood. Be it IVF, IUI, egg freezing, surrogacy, adoption, etc., the path is never the same and it can be long, painful, and lonely. It’s our mission to give those struggling a platform to be heard, a community connection, and an opportunity to raise awareness of the 1 in 8 who, for many reasons, struggle with infertility.

Episode 117: Fertility 101: Oncofertility

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re shedding light on oncofertility, the intersection of cancer, cancer treatment, and fertility. 

A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying, and often decisions need to be made quickly. One of those decisions may be around whether or not to pursue fertility preservation before cancer treatment starts since some treatment may leave a patient infertile. Oncofertility gives a patient the opportunity to focus on life after cancer. 

Although oncofertility is a groundbreaking practice, there are still questions and misconceptions. Today, we have Dr. Wael Salem of CCRM San Francisco to help break it down.  

Guest: Dr. Wael Salem, CCRM San Francisco 

Host: Dan Bulger 

For more information, visit Progyny’s Podcast pageand Progyny’s Education page for more resources.  

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Here are some highlights from this episode: 

What is Oncofertility?
1:39 – 2:38 

Dan Bulger: What is oncofertility? 

Dr. Wael Salem: Oncofertility is the general field that melds together healthcare professionals from oncology and fertility in order to help a patient navigate the possible impacts of cancer treatments and their cancer on their fertility. It’s also about thinking a little step further. The overarching goal of oncofertility is to, of course, treat the entirety of the patient to treat the patient holistically. More specifically, we’re treating them beyond their cancer into their survivorship. Cancer shouldn’t define anybody. It’s a remarkably big life event. But the field of oncofertility is one that has been established to look at the survivorship portion of life and all the big events that follow cancer treatment, including building your family. 

Oncofertility Misconceptions  
14:12 – 16:28 

Dan Bulger: Oncofertility is the marriage of two very complicated fields of medicine, oncology, and fertility. And this complexity, along with all the fear associated with cancer, has led to some dangerous misconceptions lingering out there. Well, we wanted to see if Dr. Salim could help clear the air. 

Dr. Wael Salem: There are still many misconceptions that that linger out there. 

The first one is that this jeopardizes the care of one’s cancer and it takes too long. Studies have all shown us that with our modern protocols, it does not take longer to do the fertility preservation compared to the standard route that it would take to get your chemotherapy or your treatment started. 

The second misconception is that it’s unaffordable. A lot of times, patients are surprised to find out how accessible this really is, or they’re pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s completely covered by their health insurance program, or in their state, or that the medications are going to come at no cost to them. 

And then the third misconception is that all cancers and cancer treatments cause infertility. Not all chemotherapies will cause infertility and certainly not all cancers will have treatments that lead to infertility. 

Host

Dan Bulger, Producer at Progyny

Dan has been in the healthcare industry for the last six years as a multimedia content producer. Better known as ‘Video Dan’ he as interviewed numerous doctors, patients and other experts in the world of fertility. He’s also the producer for this podcast, This is Infertility. On a personal note Dan’s parents started fostering kids when he was four years old, and he considers himself a proud older brother to over 100 foster children. 

Guests

Dr. Wael Salem MD, MS, MPhil, CCRM San Francisco

Dr. Wael Salem is dedicated to bringing the most current and evidence-based medicine to patients. Underlying his scientific and academic background is a belief that shared decision-making is central to any successful care plan.

He is Board-Certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and in Obstetrics and Gynecology. His research publications and interests include fertility for cancer patients, PCOS, fertility preservation (egg freezing) and preimplantation genetic testing for hereditary genetic diseases. Dr. Salem joined CCRM Minneapolis in 2018 and relocated to the Bay Area in 2021. While in Minnesota, he trained residents in Obstetrics and Gynecology and was an adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota.

He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California in Berkeley and his medical degree from the Mayo Clinic Medical School College of Medicine. During his residency for Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California in San Francisco, Dr. Salem received the Outstanding Resident in Minimally Invasive Gynecology award. Dr. Salem also holds two Master’s degrees – one in Public Health from the University of Cambridge (UK) and the second is in Clinical, Biomedical and Translational Investigations from the University of Southern California.

In addition to presenting his research at prestigious medical conferences around the globe, Dr. Salem has authored numerous publications for notable peer-reviewed journals. He is currently on the editorial board for Human Reproduction. He was recently named a Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine “Rising Star” and a 2021 Castle Connolly Rising Star.

He is fluent in Arabic, French and conversational in Spanish. In his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis, hiking, traveling and trying new cuisines.