Pediatricians Manjusha and Philip Abraham met during medical school and married in 2012. He was a 3rd-year resident at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She was in her first year.
By 2015, the Abrahams began to talk more seriously about starting a family. But first, Manjusha wanted genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutation.
"There is a history of breast and ovarian cancer in my family," explains Manjusha.
Genetic counselors at The University of Kansas Cancer Center conducted the test in March 2015. The results confirmed Manjusha's fears – she carried the mutation. Even worse, a follow-up MRI revealed she had early-stage breast cancer.
Cancer care comes first
Oncologist Priyanka Sharma, MD, guided the couple through diagnosis and treatment. Due to Manjusha's genetic risk factors, Dr. Sharma recommended an aggressive approach.
At 29, Manjusha had a double mastectomy. One month after breast surgery, she began chemotherapy treatment. After chemotherapy, she had both ovaries removed.
Each procedure reduced Manjusha's cancer risk, but also limited her and her husband's choices for starting a family. That's because many cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can harm a woman's reproductive system. And without ovaries, a woman is unable to produce eggs.
At every stage in their treatment process, the Abrahams consulted with multidisciplinary experts at The University of Kansas Health System about their fertility preservation options. Knowing that the couple wanted to have a family, advanced reproductive specialists retrieved several of Manjusha's eggs for fertilization and freezing before starting her chemotherapy.
"We only had a limited amount of eggs available. We were fortunate this was an option," says Philip.
By June 2016, Manjusha's chemotherapy was complete and she was cancer free