They freeze eggs to beat deadly diseases

She was just 17-and-a-half when her cancer-afflicted uterus was removed, and she knew that was the end of her motherhood dreams. Until doctors suggested that she could preserve her oocytes for the future. That was back in 2006, when egg preservation was yet to gain popularity in this part of the world.

Declared cancer-free four years ago, the aerospace professional had moved to the US. Three months ago, the woman and her American husband knocked on the doors of Dr SP Somashekar, chairman and HoD, surgical oncologist, Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Centre, saying they use her frozen eggs to have a child.

Now, her eggs will be thawed and fertilized with her husband's sperms and the embryo transferred to the womb of a surrogate mother.

"The law forbids sending the oocyte abroad. She has to bring her surrogate to Bengaluru. She is complying with the legal formalities," Dr Somashekar told TOI.

City doctors say that unlike about three years ago, they are seeing more young women cancer patients preserving their oocytes before undergoing chemotherapy, though the success rate is not more than 25-30%.

In another case, a 20-year-old girl suffering from thalassemia moved to Bengaluru from the Maldives to preserve her eggs, before undergoing a bone marrow transplant. "I see a growing confidence among women to preserve their ovaries," said Dr Kamini Rao, medical director, Milann, a fertility centre.

Dr Nalini Kilara, HoD, medical oncology, MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, said a 17-yearold girl from Ballari wanted to preserve her ovaries. She was suffering from a primitive neuroectodermal tumour, a cancer afflicting the brain of children and young adults. "Most patients come for treat8ment at advanced stages, when we ha8ve no time to suggest egg freezing as cancer treatment is the priority. This girl, though, was brought when cancer was still in the initial stages. But we really don't know how successful it will be," Dr Kilara said.

Cryopreserving eggs

Human oocyte cryopreservation is a process by which a woman's eggs are extracted, frozen,stored. When she is ready to become pregnant, the eggs are thawed, fertilized and shifted to the uterus as an embryo.