Healthy Expectations: Growing push to preserve the chance of parenthood after cancer

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — It has been almost ten years since Emily Straniero first heard the words, “You have a brain tumor.”

It was discovered after a car accident when she was 18, but the New Jersey native did not have any problems until two months before her graduation from the University of Richmond.

Emily Straniero was first diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 18. (Photo: Emily Straniero)

“It was a lot more than they expected. They ended up having to split my whole head open and pull pieces of the tumor out,” she remembers.

Straniero had to learn to walk again and write again, and then she had to have surgery again in 2015 when the tumor grew.

“I was very sick,” she reflects.

In between chemotherapy and hair loss, along with emotional and physical highs and lows, Straniero also had a question hanging over her head: After the years-long fight that took a toll on her body, would she ever be able to have a baby?

“Five years ago it was pretty uncommon to freeze eggs prior to chemotherapy and radiation,” explains Dr. Scott Lucidi, a reproductive endocrinologist with VCU Health. “Now it’s pretty much every woman or male of reproductive age gets a referral here to see us.”

Dr. Lucidi says while patients like Emily come to grips with their diagnosis, they also have to come to grips with the fact that chemo, radiation and some cancer surgeries can zap their fertility.

(Photo: Emily Straniero)

He describes a growing push to educate them about ways they can try to preserve their chances to be parents when the time comes.

“Reproductive potential and future fertility, that is a big quality of life issue,” he says.

Adds Straniero, “On top of it, you’re dealing with some major health issues. It is a tough decision to make.”

Straniero knows cancer patients who did not know they had the option and wish they did, so she stored her eggs for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) down the road.

Now at age 27, motherhood still seems far away. However, Straniero is glad she made an investment for her future.

“This gives people an opportunity and almost a second chance if you could say that,” she says. “Nothing is ever guaranteed, and you don’t know until you try something.”

Even patients of reproductive age who already have children are encouraged to store eggs or sperm. Dr. Lucidi says they can go through the process without delaying their cancer treatment.

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