Hundreds of cancer patients froze eggs, sperm last year

Summary

Hundreds of cancer patients took advantage of a medical procedure last year that allows them to fully focus on their recovery and not worry about how a medical treatment will affect their ability to have children

“Double punishment”

New figures from Belgium’s medical insurance agency reveal that 524 cancer patients had their eggs or sperm frozen last year.

The patients, 177 of them men and 347 of them women, opted to freeze their egg cells, sperm or ovarian tissue before undergoing chemo treatment, radio therapy or surgery. Most of the patients had leukaemia, lymphoma, testicular cancer or breast cancer.

The oncofreezing procedure, as it is called, allows cancer patients to preserve their eggs or spermatozoids to realise their wish for children in a later phase, after their recovery. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy can seriously affect patients’ fertility.

Since 2017, patients can apply for complete reimbursement of the procedure, which costs between €1,300 and €3,500 depending on the type of treatment.

“A cancer diagnosis is an incredible burden to carry. Simultaneously seeing your wish of having a child also going up in thin air is a double punishment,” federal health minister Maggie De Block said in a press statement.  “We wanted to remove that additional worry by reimbursing egg freezing for cancer patients. Patients need to be able to focus on their recovery 100%. If they later want to pick their desire for children back up, they can.”

The government has set aside a budget of €4 million for reimbursement of the egg and sperm freezing procedures for cancer patients.  

Photo: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Health-care system

The health-care system is federally organised in Belgium. Competing health insurance providers and a proportional contribution-based system ensure that healthcare is accessible to virtually all citizens and costs remain relatively low.
Law - From the age of 25, Belgian citizens and residents – both employees and those self-employed – are legally obliged to have health insurance.
Insurance providers - The mutualiteiten or mutual insurance associations are typically Christian, liberal, socialist or independent.
Services - Refunds are given for services such as doctor’s consultations, prescribed medication and hospital care costs.
1 945

national health-care system is born

13

percent of salary employees contribute to social security

50

to 75% of healthcare costs reimbursed by mutuality