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Study Shows Infertile Cancer Survivors Face Unique Hurdles When Opting For Adoption

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New research has discovered that cancer survivors, who desire to adopt children and start their family after battling their disease, may face unique hurdles more than anyone when opting to undergo the process of adoption.

A tedious and expensive process, adoption requires more than money and the desire to adopt, legal documents, government requirements and a series of necessary steps for anyone to be successful.

For cancer survivors, who have undergone several treatments that cause them to be infertile, adoption is most commonly their only option to start or grow their families. However, it looks as if the already difficult process is made more challenging for them.

There are few data available about the experiences of cancer survivors who have undergone the process of adoption, as well as the rate at which their request for adoption has been successful. With this, a research team led by Gwendolyn Quinn, Ph.D., and Susan Vadaparampil, Ph.D., of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa conducted a study that involved 77 oncology nurses, who were then undergoing a training program.

The nurses were asked to communicate with the administrators and counselors of adoption agencies across 15 states. The details that the nurses asked included adoption costs, number of cancer survivors who have sought their services, special procedures required for cancer survivors in order to adopt, and cases where birth mothers show apprehension about letting their child be adopted by cancer survivors.

The findings of the investigation, soon to be published in the journal Cancer, show that adoption fees may range from $3,000 to $75,000, with an average of $20,000 to $30,000.

The nurses found that not all agencies were able to track the number of potential adoptive parents who had a diagnosis of cancer; however, those who were able to document it said that about 10 cancer survivors per year seek to adopt.

Although not all agencies were able to get the opinion of birth mothers regarding the possible adoption of their child by a cancer survivor, majority of those who have available information said that it is likely that birth mothers may feel confident. They may see someone who has gone through hurdles and developed appreciation for life as something positive.

The nurses also discovered that adopting from across the globe may entail stricter policies for cancer survivors.

The nurses also found that agencies require a letter from their physician detailing the health and medical history of the adopting parents, and confirming that they have been healthy for the past five years.

According to Quinn, this practice is somewhat discriminatory and may be compared to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), limiting disabled individuals to be employed.

"Some survivors have no trouble at all getting this medical clearance and it just becomes one of many documents they need to gather, but others have had difficulty with the letter," wrote Quinn in an email to Reuters Health.

An evaluation followed after the nurses conducted the interviews. According to the participants, they feel that they had acquired important learnings about the procedures for adoption and that they had improved their skills in talking to their patients regarding adoption after cancer treatment.

The nurse learners were able to increase their knowledge about the hardships of patients wanting to adopt after surviving cancer, said Quinn. This study aims to pave the way for better patient information delivery based on what they have learned.

"Additionally, perhaps this data will bring to light the need for policy revisions in adoption processes that comply with ADA requirements," she added.

Photo: Wendy Owens | Flickr

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