Cancer patients freezing eggs now for pregnancies later

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on April 21, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 21 at 6:15 PM

After the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis, many younger women worry next about their fertility and whether the treatment will rob them of their ability to have children. Today there are more options than ever.

Heidi Tripp loves being a mom.

"People say you never know until you actually have kids how much they mean to you and you would give anything for them," she said.

Heidi and her husband want to add to their family.

"We were trying to get pregnant with our second child and not having any luck with that," she said. "Just every month thinking I was pregnant and ended up not being."

She couldn't figure it out. All the pregnancy signs were there: fatigue, nausea and pelvic cramping. But it turned out they were signs of something else. Doctors found a cyst on Heidi's ovary and scheduled surgery, but in the process found something they didn't expect.

"It was devastating, because first of all it was the last thing I expected. I woke up from surgery to find this out," she said.

Heidi had lymphoma on her ovary.

"Finding out you have cancer is shocking, but my immediate thought was, 'Wait a minute, what does that mean? I'm not going to have kids?'" said Heidi.

Fertility specialist Dr. Lawrence Engmann frequently consults cancer patients on preserving their fertility. There's in-vitro fertilization where embryos are frozen or a new approach: egg freezing.

"This is considered experimental because the pregnancy rates used to be very low. Although there have been significant improvements in the technology, there have been over 300 babies born worldwide," said Engmann.

Other approaches including freezing ovarian tissues or even surgically moving the ovaries up in the body out of the radiation field when necessary. 

Heidi opted for in-vitro. She now has seven frozen embryos. Both egg freezing and embryo freezing are available locally.

LINKS:

Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences
http://www.northwestreproductive.com/

Fertility Preservation
http://www.seattlefertility.com/treatment/fertilityPreservation.asp

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