Living"If you save the eggs, you stop the clock":...

"If you save the eggs, you stop the clock": the story of Estrella, a 37-week pregnant woman with breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women of childbearing age . According to the Spanish Association Against Cancer, each year 25,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Spain.

One of the biggest concerns of women after the diagnosis of the disease is to know if one day they will have the possibility of having children, or of having them again in case of being a mother and wanting to enlarge the family, since treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy they can negatively influence fertility.

Years ago, little could be done about it, and the pain of the disease was also compounded by seeing the dreams of having a biological child frustrated . But today, thanks to egg freezing it is possible to increase the chances of having a baby when the woman is cured.

A clear example of this is Estrella, an oncology patient who is currently 37 weeks pregnant thanks to the vitrification of her oocytes through the program ‘Being a mother or father after cancer’ at the IVI clinic.

On a day like today, in which World Breast Cancer Day is commemorated, we want to share her story of hope and struggle, to encourage other women who are currently in the same situation.

“At first you see it far away, but time passes very quickly and your moment arrives”

Estrella was 35 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer . At that time, her greatest desire was to become a mother, so one of the things that distressed her most was that her fertility was affected by the treatments.

For this reason, Estrella decided to freeze her eggs and become a mother later, when she was recovered and regardless of her age or the effects that the medication had caused on her fertility.

But Estrella is not the only cancer patient who has opted for this method.

Thus, since IVI created in 2007 the free Fertility Preservation Program for cancer patients, ‘Being a mother or father after cancer’, more than 1,400 women diagnosed with cancer have vitrified their oocytes before undergoing chemo treatment or radiotherapy.

According to IVI experts, 65% of oocyte preservations for cancer performed in their clinics correspond to women with breast cancer.

“Cancer is one of the hardest blows that life can give you , as a patient, family member and as a doctor in a specialty that, until 15 years ago, could do little to help these women” – explains Dr. Javier Domingo, coordinator of this program.

“It was then that we pioneered the oocyte vitrification technique, which opened up a wide range of indications in the reproductive field. And among them, a group of patients that could benefit was that of young women diagnosed with cancer, most without children yet

And the fact is that the profile of the cancer patient who decides to freeze her eggs is that of a young woman, with an average age of 32.5 years and an important reproductive potential, which in most cases will be truncated by cancer treatments to which you must submit.

From IVI they consider it important that the patient knows the options she has to become a mother after cancer. The dissemination and awareness in this regard, not only in the gynecology unit, but in all areas involved in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, makes patients know that there is a real possibility of having a baby after overcoming cancer, if so they want it.

For the experts, this illusion and future option of being a mother helps the woman to face the disease and the treatment with greater strength and hope, since she has a goal to hold on to.

This has been the case for Estrella, who after surgery, 21 radiation therapy sessions and two years of fighting cancer , is now about to meet her baby thanks to the oocyte vitrification that she performed before starting her treatment.

In order to become pregnant, she had to wait for the doctors to consider the best time to interrupt the cancer treatment (which she will resume after breastfeeding), and after a few months of waiting, the embryo transfer could be carried out successfully.

As she explains, “stopping the clock” preserving her eggs has given her a lot of peace of mind . In addition, Estrella sends a hopeful message to women who are going through a similar situation right now: ” do not be afraid because at first you see it very far, but time passes very quickly and your moment arrives” .

What is oncological egg preservation?

When for oncological reasons or for any other medical cause , the fertility of the woman is negatively affected, there is the possibility of freezing the eggs to be used when the patient is cured and so wishes.

The fertility preservation treatment consists of keeping the eggs at -196 ° C, so that they maintain the same quality as when they were frozen.

Preservation of fertility for medical / oncological reasons, for both women and men (by freezing semen) is recommended for:

  • Patients – men and women – who are going to receive treatment with chemo or radiotherapy or a bone marrow transplant
  • Women with an ovarian pathology that involves surgery, such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts
  • Men who are going to have surgery that may affect their ability to make sperm, such as a testicular tumor

As we can read on the IVI page, oocyte vitrification and semen freezing techniques offer high survival rates without a time limit (that is, eggs and sperm can remain frozen for as long as desired).

In the case of oocyte vitrification, the success rate is around 95% . And a good example of this are the 48 babies born to date thanks to IVI’s cancer preservation program, which will be joined by three new babies on the way, including Estrella’s.

Photos | iStock

Via | IVI

More information | IVI Cancer Preservation Program

In Babies and More | Freezing your eggs: everything you need to know if you consider preserving your fertility

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