Medical Minute 2-23: Preserving Parenthood in Kids Fighting Cancer

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Danielle Pollicino was a high school honors student and varsity athlete when her world turned upside down.

"It started during volleyball. It felt like a growing pain, aching really bad. It wouldn't go away," she said.

Doctors found a malignant tumor in the bone of Danielle's forearm. She was immediately scheduled for surgery followed by chemo -- treatment that would save her life but could leave her infertile.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and said, 'Oh my God, what are we going to do?' She's too young. She's going to want to have babies," said Danielle's mom.

Doctor Jill Ginsberg is the director of the Cancer Survivorship Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Ginsberg is testing an experimental procedure that may preserve parenthood for even the youngest cancer patients by harvesting, freezing and storing reproductive tissue-before toxic treatments begin.

"Long down the road, when they are cured of their cancer, if they are having difficulties, this tissue can be thawed and then re-implanted," said Dr. Ginsberg.

Adult female cancer patients can sometimes undergo a procedure to harvest eggs but that can take weeks or months -- not an option in Danielle's case.

"She had a bone tumor that nobody wanted to wait three to four weeks to do any egg freezing," Dr. Ginsberg said.

During a 30-minute laparoscopic procedure, surgeons removed a tiny piece of ovarian tissue from the cortex -- an area rich in egg follicles. Cells that will be stored until Danielle is ready for the possibility of parenthood.

"There's a ray of hope out there. Nothing's guaranteed. If she isn't able to have babies on her own, there's something out there that may work," Danielle's mom said.

"I do want to have kids. I've already thought about that. I do want to have kids and a family," said Danielle.

For more information, call (407) 740-0789 ext. 579

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