A breast cancer patient who must undergo chemotherapy may lose her chance to have children. The harsh medications can destroy fertility. Now improved egg-freezing methods are helping these women, and others.
Trina mills is just 28 years old and has a-plastic anemia. It didn't occur to her that chemotherapy could rob her of the chance to have a baby.
"If it wasn't for my mom, bringing this up to my oncologist," Trina said, "I wouldn't have thought about it. You just don't think about the fact that the chemo's going to make you infertile."
Fertility specialist Geoffrey Sher has a worldwide practice, but he's based in Las Vegas. He said Trina's cancer, a type of leukemia, gave her an advantage, of time. "Fortunately," said Sher, "Trina had time to consider her options, but I think when people are diagnosed right away and are told they have to have chemo right away or radiation you're scared. It comes out of nowhere and all you're thinking about is that procedure. You're not thinking future or down the road or what it's gonna do."
Trina lives in San Diego. She will spend just one week in Las Vegas, undergoing hormone therapy and testing. On Sunday, the eggs will be harvested. Dr Sher is using C-G-H, or "comparative genomic hybridization". It's new way of selecting eggs, developed by Dr Sher. "For the very first time we can select the normal ones through a process that looks at all the chromosomes in the egg without harming the egg. And we test the egg. We know that's the egg that can make a baby. We preserve it through a new method of freezing called vitrification which is safe for the egg."
Sher says vitrification speeds up the freezing process 600 times. This prevents the egg cell from being damaged by ice crystals. "But," he said, "the vitrification would be of little help if you weren't sure that you were freezing the right egg. So the sorting process is the really critical step. Finding out which egg is worth storing. Otherwise all you're offering people is false hope, false promises."
This gives women like Trina, facing chemotherapy, a better chance at one day having a baby. Trina says knowing she has options is "the greatest gift".
(Paula Dilworth Francis)