Sienna was the first baby born in the U.S. after an ovarian tissue transplant. Two months after the transplant, Dauer reemerged from the early “menopause” caused by her cancer treatments, and became pregnant immediately. The pregnancy was discovered, much to Dr. Oktay’s surprise, at a routine baseline scan to see if Dauer had started to ovulate again. “I thought I was hallucinating. She wasn’t supposed to be pregnant,” Dr. Oktay recalls thinking as he checked the ultrasound image.
The pregnancy ended at six weeks with a miscarriage, but Dauer was hopeful that if she could get pregnant once, she could do it again. And barely two months later she did. What makes this story even more remarkable is the fact that Sienna was conceived naturally. Dr. Oktay had planned on an egg retrieval and IVF procedure for Dauer. “We still don’t fully understand how it happened,” he says. “It’s a miracle baby. The ovarian tissue transplant kick-started the ovary that was left in her body that had been menopausal for several years.”
After beating cancer and the incredible odds of becoming pregnant naturally after an ovarian tissue transplant—some experts have likened it to a chance of 1 in 5 million—eternal optimist Dauer, now 35, says she’s not done yet. Annie and Greg Dauer are currently trying for baby number two.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 124,000 people under the age of 45 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. While the effect of cancer treatments on patients’ fertility and ability to become parents varies greatly according to cancer type and therapy, the majority are at risk of infertility.
Cancer treatment can render both women and men infertile. Surgeries to treat cervical, ovarian, or uterine cancer may prevent women from conceiving or raise the risk of miscarriage. In addition, chemotherapy and radiation treatments may damage a woman’s eggs, stop ovulation, or induce early menopause. In men, cancer may cause infertility, while chemotherapy and radiation treatments may affect sperm numbers and quality.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Cancer doesn’t automatically mean infertility and an end to the hope of biological parenthood, just as it is no longer an automatic death sentence. Almost 80 percent of children and teenagers who are diagnosed with cancer today become longterm survivors. With the number of survivors up to 10 million in the United States—from three million in the 1970s—cancer is increasingly being treated as a chronic disease like diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong famously not only beat his cancer, but also had his sperm frozen prior to undergoing chemo, and has since fathered four children.
Cancer Survivors Can Get Pregnant|
Feb 24, 2009
- If so, Dr. Jean Twenge's brand-new book is for you. Dr. Twenge has written "The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant," and shares some of her best advice in the first of our two-part interview with her. (Check back on April 23 for part two!)
- The cost of fertility medications can force many couples to question whether they can continue infertility treatment. But there are ways to save, and...
- A noted poet, professor, and essay writer describes the loss of her first pregnancy. Now, years later, this mother of two happy, healthy children...
- As author of The Infertility Cure and The Way of the Fertile Soul, Randine Lewis, Ph.D., L.Ac., has been a pioneer in introducing eastern medicine to western couples to help them become parents.