After a recent conversation with a friend who asked me the probabilities of a breast cancer survivor having children post chemotherapy, I thought a lot this weekend about an article from 2008 in Women & Cancer magazine. For my friend, and all the women who are cancer survivors, I wanted to re-post this article and feature it as my blog topic this week.
The article is the journey one of my patients took as she faced breast cancer, and she chose to preserve her fertility via egg freezing. The article can also be found at CancerConsultants.com, after a Q&A about fertility options for women facing cancer.
Unfortunately, a woman’s eggs become more prone to genetic abnormalities as she ages. These abnormalities sometimes lead to increased incidences of infertility, miscarriage and birth defects especially in women over 40 years of age.
Egg freezing is a method that suspends egg aging. Since the genetic status of an egg cannot be determined solely on appearance, methods to evaluate eggs using genetic probes have been developed. The egg discards DNA at two different times during its development, ovulation and fertilization. This occurs in order to reduce the number of chromosomes to 23 in order to match the 23 chromosomes delivered by the sperm. The discarded DNA (in the form of excess chromosomes) is jettisoned outside of the egg as a small, round pocket called the polar body.