Should you freeze your eggs?

Should you freeze your eggs? (Handout / May 30, 2012)

(Robins says storage for the frozen tissue runs about $300 per year, currently. Jensen estimates the transplantation of the tissue back into a patient would cost roughly $15,000.)

But just as important, Shapiro says, is the psychological prep work.

"Some parents are likely to face challenging questions from their children," he says. "It's complicated to tell a 5-year-old they are having surgery so that they can have babies someday if the child believes that babies are delivered by stork or come from mom's belly. That said, this isn't especially unique — children routinely ask questions when they may not be developmentally prepared to understand the answer."

Each family , of course, will handle such conversations differently. But it's best to view the procedure as a topic of long-term discussion.

"Cancer itself is very difficult to explain to children and parents wrestle with how much to tell and under what circumstances," Shapiro says. "My first born, a product of sperm banked in 1987 before I started chemotherapy, announced to her classroom in first grade that she wasn't human because she was created in a laboratory. I'm fairly confident we didn't give her this impression. One need only see the state of her bedroom now — she's 16 — to see that she's undoubtedly human.

"This is a long-winded way of saying that parents should expect to have to revisit this topic as children get older," he says. "Once the decision is made to preserve the tissue, this is going to be a topic of occasional discussion for a long time."

Hospitals usually have social workers and psychologists available to help families navigate the decisions, Robins says.

"Many families find it comforting to have this as an insurance policy," he says. "It helps them focus on survivorship.

"From our perspective," Robins says, "we're doing this because we know your child is going to get better and we want them to have a full and complete survivorship. So our focus really becomes not on the cancer, but on how we're going to make them feel complete in their lives once they've gotten over this one phase of treatment."

None

Of the young patients who have undergone the fertility preservation procedures have reached the age where the tissue might be reimplanted.

hstevens@tribune.com