Woman has twins after losing ovaries from cancer

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 8:19 AM PST
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(CNN) - There were an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases in the U.S. in 2022, according to the American Cancer Society.

Treatments like chemotherapy can cause changes to fertility that are temporary or permanent.

One cancer survivor lost her ovaries but not her hope of having more children. In 2020, Shelly Battista headed back to work with a newborn at home.

“I was pumping more at work, and that’s when I noticed a lump in my breast,” Battista said.

She thought it was a clogged milk duct, but a biopsy revealed that was not the case. Despite having no family history, the new mother was diagnosed with a triple-negative breast cancer and the BRCA1 mutation.

“What 34-year-old thinks, ‘Oh, I probably have breast cancer.’ So, it was very surreal. Very shocking,” she said.

Almost as devastating was the thought of getting through cancer and not being able to have more children in the future. Before chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes, Battista met with Dr. Kara Goldman with the Northwestern Medicine Center for Fertility & Reproductive Medicine.

“She knew that this chemotherapy would save her life but would likely take her fertility,” Goldman said.

Eight healthy embryos were frozen. One year after her cancer treatment, Battista was cleared for pregnancy.

“There’s a tremendous misconception that you have to have ovaries in order to carry a pregnancy, but actually the ovaries and uterus function quite separately from each other,” Goldman said.

There were two failed embryo transfers before success a third time.

“We didn’t want to get our hopes up too high, right?” Battista said. “So, when we got the phone call from Dr. Goldman - she called us herself - we were very, very ecstatic.”

During the first ultrasound there was another surprise.

“She moved the doppler a little bit, and she’s like, “Oh, look! There’s two of them!” the mom said.

The twin baby girls were born two years to the day Battista had been declared cancer-free.

“I always wanted at least three kids, so this was amazing,” Battista said.

Since Battista found out through genetic testing that she had the BCRA1 mutation, her mom and younger sister also got tested. They, too, learned they have the mutation and have been able to do some preventative care because of it.