Tissue freezing gives cancer patients hope of having children

Fifty years ago, only 10 to 20 per cent of children survived a diagnosis of cancer. Today, the overall survival rate is closer to 80 per cent. Many of these children will be left infertile by the very treatments that save their lives.

Now, fertility clinics are increasingly experimenting with egg freezing and ovarian tissue freezing for teen and even prepubescent girls, as well testicular tissue banking for boys not yet old enough to produce sperm, in the hope of preserving their fertility.

The emerging field of “oncofertility” is trying to raise a new consciousness about a consequence of cancer treatment too long ignored, experts say. But it is also raising difficult ethical and legal questions ā€” among them, who owns these freeze-banked gametes? Can parents use their child’s frozen eggs or sperm to create virtual grandchildren if their child dies?

In males, cancer treatment or the disease itself can irreversibly damage sperm production. For girls, chemotherapy and radiation can deplete their egg supply or plunge them into early menopause.

Until recently, most cancer doctors didn’t consider the risk of sterility worth raising ā€” partly because, except for freezing and banking sperm, there was little to offer in the way of treatment. The focus instead was on surviving the diagnosis, not what happens after the cancer is gone. Read more…

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