Watch CBS News

Teenage Cancer Patients Face Emotional Decision On Fertility

CHICAGO (CBS) -- At an age when most teenage girls are concerned with pop music, makeup and boys, some have to make an emotional decision: Whether to preserve their chance to have children.

They are cancer patients, and they know their treatments could destroy their fertility.

In this Original Report, CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports on the choices they face.

Jenna McKeown was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 17, a senior at Benet Academy.

Doctors said heavy chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, might kill her dream to have kids.

"It was always in the back of my mind," McKeown said. "I kind of suppressed the grieving process that I would struggle with."

Pediatrician Jennifer McNeer is one of the doctors who treated Jenna. She said it is "incredibly hard'' to deliver the news that saving a girl's life could mean damaging her ability to have a family.

"In that moment, the girl and her family are dealing with this devastating diagnosis of cancer," McNeer said.

McKeown said she had to start treatment quickly and there was no time to harvest her eggs.

There is now an exciting, but expensive, new option for girls facing cancer treatment: freezing ovarian tissue or freezing the eggs themselves. (Freezing ovarian tissue is still experimental in the United States.)

Jenna McKeown is now a senior at St. Mary's University in South Bend.

Her successful treatment didn't wipe out her fertility, so she hasn't harvested eggs, yet.

"If there is a chance I don't need help and can have kids the old-fashioned way, that would be the best," she said.

Freezing of eggs can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and some insurance companies now cover the procedure.

Boys undergoing cancer treatment can preserve their fertility by banking sperm that can be frozen for years.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.