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Danielle Collins is getting breast cancer treatment that could make her sterile.
But before she started chemotherapy, the 28-year-old Charlottean arranged for a fertility specialist to retrieve healthy eggs from her ovaries, a step to preserve her chances of becoming pregnant later.
Twelve of Collins' unfertilized eggs are now frozen, suspended in a liquid nitrogen tank, at Reproductive Endocrinology Associates of Charlotte. When and if she is ready, the eggs can be thawed, fertilized and artificially inseminated.
There's no guarantee the eggs will produce babies, but fertility clinics in the Carolinas and around the world are reporting success with a new process for freezing human eggs.
Clinics in Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem are offering egg freezing to cancer patients. Some also offer the technique to women who want to postpone having children.
"Young single women realize that as time passes, they have fewer eggs," said Dr. Jack Crain, a reproductive endocrinologist at REACH. "They are parking their eggs for future use."
Egg freezing is "one of the most exciting things to come along" in the field of assisted reproduction, said Dr. Grace Couchman, a reproductive endocrinologist with Carolina Conceptions in Raleigh. "For cancer patients, it would be terrific to freeze eggs reliably."
In addition to preserving fertility, egg freezing could also help solve what Crain describes as "one of the biggest dilemmas this industry faces."
That is: How to avoid having so many leftover frozen embryos - eggs that have been fertilized by sperm.