National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) yesterday announced that it has successfully transferred a frozen human embryo to a patient for the first time, allowing a woman who had undergone chemotherapy to give birth using her own embryo.
A 40-year-old woman surnamed Huang (黃) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, when she was single, and after consulting with the hospital’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, she agreed to have her eggs and embryo frozen before she underwent chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
Huang naturally conceived a child about six months after the treatment was completed.
Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times
However, she had a miscarriage when she and her husband tried to have a second child, so they decided to use the frozen embryo and Huang gave birth to a boy in July.
NTUH department of obstetrics and gynecology physician Chen Mei-jou (陳美州), who treated Huang, said nearly 20 percent of breast cancer patients in the nation are under 40 years old, which means many patients develop cancer during their child-bearing age.
Some chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer can affect ovarian functions or cause infertility, and the treatment and observation process often take several years, so women with breast cancer can miss their child-bearing period when going through cancer treatment, she said.
Through induced ovulation to extract eggs and embryos for frozen preservation, these women are given more opportunities to conceive a baby after they recover from the treatment, Chen said, adding that there is no clear evidence that ovulation induction agents have a negative affect on breast cancer treatment.
Department director Chen Shee-uan (陳思原) said because the quality of eggs and embryos declines as a woman ages, the best time for women to have their eggs or embryos frozen is before the age of 35, and that the conception rate using these eggs or embryos is between 50 and 70 percent.
Chen Mei-jou said the cost of extracting eggs is about NT$100,000 to NT$120,000, in addition to a preservation fee of NT$8,500 per year, adding that the hospital urges women with breast cancer or those who are considering preserving their eggs and embryos to consult with their doctor about the procedure.
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