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Boosting Fertility in Child Cancer Survivors
- Updated: August 17, 2014
According to numerous studies, there is a much greater chance of infertility for girl cancer survivors who have undergone treatment. However, using guidelines first developed more than two decades ago, these girls may now have new hope. Using specific criteria developed in Edinburgh, some girls might have the opportunity to freeze ovarian tissue prior to treatment, which would then be unfrozen and used sometime in the future.
The girls used in the earlier study were carefully selected based on age, as well as the type of cancer treatment being received and overall prognosis. At that time, predictions for participants were made using the established guidelines and now with these girls being grown women, doctors have the opportunity to validate the findings.
Led by the University of Edinburgh, criteria were validated for over 400 girls under the age of 18 at the time of diagnosis or shortly thereafter. It was discovered that predictions were accurate in all of one patient who started menopause early. This study was funded by the Medical Research Council and findings published in the Lancet Oncology Journal.
Taking note, Professor Hamish Wallace, a lead researcher at the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Child Life and Health and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children’s Consultant Paediatric Oncologist division stated, “Advances in lifesaving treatments mean that more and more young people with cancer are surviving the disease. Here we have an opportunity to help young women to have families of their own when they grow up, if they so choose”.
Although fertility is affected in several ways, it is most often compromised by causing the onset of menopause too early. Doctors today are becoming more optimistic that this process will allow a growing number of female cancer survivors the chance to become pregnant. After all, frozen tissue has already been tested, resulting in the birth of approximately 30 healthy babies to adult women. However, success for teenagers and younger women remains unknown.
To extract ovarian tissue, a surgical procedure is performed. Because it is still considered somewhat experimental, it is vital for doctors to determine which patients are more likely to benefit but also the best time for the procedure to be performed for safety purposes.
Even with advancements in medicine and medical technology, there are still far too many cases involving young girls with cancer. For those who dream of becoming a mother one day, hopelessness has been replaced with hope thanks to this new procedure. Although additional research and testing is needed, it appears freezing ovarian tissue prior to getting cancer treatment is in fact a way to prevent infertility.