Just six weeks before her wedding, Jennifer Ehren was diagnosed with breast cancer. During the whirlwind of doctor appointments that followed, the 33-year old scientist and researcher was told the aggressive chemotherapy regimen she would undergo could put her fertility at risk.  In other words, it was possible the treatment she received for her cancer could jeopardize her life-long dream of having a family.

“I was blown away. I knew that if I couldn’t have children, I would be devastated,” Ehren remembered. “My husband really wanted them too. It was at the top of our priority list to find a partner who wanted a family.”

Ehren turned to a local fertility group, Reproductive Partners-UCSD Regional Fertility Center, for help. Like a growing number of other young cancer patients, she decided on fertility preservation to maximize her options for the future. Fertility preservation –freezing a patient’s eggs or embryos before undergoing potentially damaging cancer treatments—gives women the opportunity to pursue In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) years later when they are healthy and cancer-free. 

“I was advised to try to get pregnant naturally first if my cycle ever returned. But we wanted as many options as possible to have kids post-chemo,” said Ehren. 

Chemotherapy, radiation and some surgeries can have devastating effects on a woman’s reproductive system. Cancer treatment often leads to infertility. Every year, more than 70,000 new cancers are diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 39.  

“Most of these cancer patients will survive the disease and go on to lead normal lives,” said Dr. Irene Su, a fertility specialist with Reproductive Partners and an Assistant Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the UC San Diego Health System. “If they are considering having families sometime in the future, freezing their eggs or embryos before starting cancer treatment is a good way to preserve their range of options.” 

Since patients must squeeze in fertility preservation between their diagnosis and treatment, it’s important for them to hear about their fertility risk as soon as possible.

“Although it’s a delicate subject, doctors need to tell patients right away,” warned Ehren. “There’s no turning back.” 

For more information, please visit their website at http://ucsandiegofertility.com.