16 June 2004
Maintaining Fertility In Women With Cancer
A report in the Lancet describes a new way to preserve the fertility of women who must undergo chemotherapy. The method, described by physicians at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), can be done quickly, does not involve surgery or hormonal stimulation of the ovaries.
"Our technique of removing immature eggs from the woman's ovaries, then maturing them by a technique called in-vitro maturation (IVM), has been successfully used for eight female cancer patients," says MUHC Chief of Obstetrics Dr. Seang-Lin Tan. "We were able to immediately remove a number of healthy eggs without delaying chemotherapy."
The easiest technique of preserving fertility in young women with cancer is IVF and embryo freezing. "However, this option is only available to adults with a partner," says Dr. Tan. "Additionally there is often inadequate time to undertake an IVF cycle before starting chemotherapy and the IVF fertility drugs should not be used for some cancers."
Another technique for preserving fertility involves removing a piece of the ovary, freezing and re-transplanting it after the patient finishes chemotherapy. However, this technique involves surgery and has not been very effective. "Our technique does not involve hormone therapy or surgery. Women with cancer should be offered immature egg collection and egg or embryo freezing to preserve their fertility before they commence their cancer treatment," concludes Dr. Tan.