Jennifer Nemcik: Sparing Fertility After a Diagnosis of Borderline Ovarian Cancer

"I am confident that I am in the right place, receiving the right care so that I can stay healthy for my family!"
‐Jennifer Nemcik

I work as a nurse in the operating room at Fox Chase Cancer Center, so I know how important it is to get specialized care for a cancer diagnosis. A few years ago, my husband and I had decided to start a family. After some time, nothing was happening and since I was getting close to my mid-thirties, we decided to seek fertility treatment. During a routine ultrasound at my first appointment, they found a cyst about the size of a softball on my ovary. All of a sudden the aches, cramps, and lower back pain I assumed was just work-related from standing on my feet for hours at a time, started to make sense. I had no idea at the time that something else might be going on.

I knew immediately that I wanted a specialized center to determine whether the cyst was nothing to worry about or something concerning. For me, that specialized center was Fox Chase. I work with Dr. Christina Chu quite often, and so, I decided I would make an appointment with her to discuss the ultrasound results. Together we determined that the best next step was to have the cyst surgically removed. Dr. Chu and I talked at length about what would happen during that operation and also about my desire to have children. She would remove the cyst and while I was still under anesthesia and then she would send the tissue to our pathology department to determine whether there were cancerous cells. This would determine whether she needed to remove my ovaries or other surrounding tissue. She made me feel so comfortable and I knew that if it was possible, Dr. Chu would do everything possible to preserve my fertility.

One week later, I was in the operating room. Dr. Chu was able to perform the operation laparoscopically (a minimally invasive surgery where only a few small incisions are made.)

A Borderline Cancer Diagnosis

The cyst was successfully removed and our pathologists found atypical cells. This was explained to me as not cancer, but also not normal cells. It is in a gray area in the middle. Dr. Chu did not have to remove my ovaries and both were fully functioning. The atypical cells did mean that I would need to be monitored closely.  Basically, I have an increased risk of developing something more dangerous in the future. Dr. Chu also did additional biopsies in my abdomen and ovary just to make sure that nothing else looked abnormal but everything looked good following my surgery.

Two weeks after surgery I was able to go back to work. At a follow-up visit a few months following surgery Dr. Chu did not see any reason why I would not be able to conceive and I was cleared for fertility treatments. After one round of IVF, I conceived my daughter who was born in May 2020. I feel so fortunate that I was able to have a healthy and successful pregnancy, and we now have a happy toddler that never sits still!

Post-Pregnancy Prognosis

Jennifer with her family
Jennifer with her family

Following my pregnancy, my surveillance appointments were a little more frequent to make sure the shift in my hormones didn’t trigger the growth of any more atypical cells. For now, everything looks good. Dr. Chu recommends that once I decide we are done having children, or if I get tired of the follow-up appointments and ultrasounds, that I opt to have my ovaries removed or a total hysterectomy because I am at a higher risk to develop cancer in the future.

I can’t say one negative thing about my experience with Fox Chase. Because of my line of work, I assumed the worst when they found the cyst on my ovary. I wanted to be at a place where they have experience and confidence in treating my specific type of condition. If the cyst would have been cancerous, I wanted a team that would be able to offer multidisciplinary treatment from the start. Thankfully, my cyst was benign, but I was so glad Dr. Chu paid attention to my fertility struggles and prioritized that goal for me.

I am confident that I am in the right place, receiving the right care so that I can stay healthy for my family!

Learn more about ovarian cancer treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center.