Fertility expert's freezing technique offers hope for cancer patients

Experts in Southampton are performing a new procedure to help keep newly-diagnosed cancer patients fertile after undergoing treatment.

Consultant gynaecologist Dr Kirsten Schmidt, who has recently joined Complete Fertility Centre, Princess Anne Hospital, pioneered the technique, known as ovarian cryopreservation, while working at the University Hospital of Copenhagen.

It involves removing and freezing healthy ovarian tissue containing eggs from a patient before they start treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, which can permanently damage the reproductive organs or cause premature menopause.

Once a patient has completed their course of treatment and is either in remission or of child-bearing age, the ovarian tissue strips are thawed and either reimplanted into the ovary to allow them to try to conceive naturally or the eggs are retrieved and fertilised in vitro and the embryo is implanted in the uterus.

“It is devastating for cancer patients to learn that they may become infertile as a result of their cancer treatment and they are often deeply heartened to be given the opportunity to preserve their fertility,” said Dr Schmidt, who is leading the fertility preservation programme at Complete Fertility. 

“In addition to embryo and egg freezing, the ability to be able to freeze ovarian tissue now means that girls, as well as women, being treated for cancer can preserve their fertility until their cancer is in remission or they reach child-bearing age.”

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