Cancer survivors can get pregnant, save child from same fate

November 17, 2010 4:51:59 PM PST
Imagine having cancer at 29, then finding you have a cancer gene that's likely to passed on to your children. In what's believed to be one of the first cases of its kind, we have the story of a young cancer patient and how she kept her fertility -- and spared her baby -- from carrying her cancer gene.

"This is a long-awaited miracle," Melinda Davis said.

It's a miracle that Davis survived breast cancer and that little Mason Matthew was born at all.

"That's not something that's supposed to happen when you're 29 years old," husband Matt Davis said.

Melinda Davis' journey, from cancer at 29 to becoming a mother at age 32, is an unusual one.

First the question, why did she have breast cancer so young?

"So we did the test and it was BRCA 1 mutation," she said.

Cancer treatment often robs a woman of her fertility. Melinda and Matt decided to freeze the embryos. But then Melinda began to worry about her baby's chance of having the gene.

"OK so maybe we should screen the embryos for this mutation," Melinda said.

Melinda's embryos were frozen, until her cancer treatment was over. Then doctors at Fertility Specialists of Houston thawed and tested them by removing a single cell from each embryo. About half the embryos carried the BRCA 1 gene. But her newborn son does not carry the cancer gene.

"If I had daughters, I wanted to make sure that I had done everything to prevent breast cancer. Pancreatic cancer is also part of BRCA 1," Melinda said.

"The exciting part of this for us is the ability to take patients who have cancer and give them options," Dr. George Grunert said. "I think one thing all patients need is hope."

It takes four to six weeks to make and freeze the embryos.

"For the vast majority of patients, delaying their therapy for four to six weeks makes no difference in their outcome," Dr. Grunert said. "Once patients have started their therapy it's too late."

"There is hope for having children and a family after cancer," Melinda said.

And now, there are new options that can help those children avoid the heartbreak of cancer.


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