Thousands of female cancer patients, who are undergoing treatment that leaves them infertile, could now have their fertility preserved, giving them the chance to have their own genetic family in later life.
In Britain, the ovarian tissue of hundreds of young women has already been preserved in "ovarian tissue banks" because doctors believed that by the time these young women wanted to have children they would be able to help them. At present, a woman with leukaemia having chemotherapy or radiotherapy is likely to be made infertile because there is no way of protecting her ovaries.
WOMEN WHO EXPERIENCE PREMATURE MENOPAUSE
Most women experience the menopause in their early fifties but in Britain one in every 100 women experiences a premature menopause. The condition, which can occur in teenage girls, affects about 110,000 women.
At present women with a family history of premature menopause can have their eggs frozen. But the success rates with frozen eggs are poor, with only one live baby for every 100 eggs used.
Premature menopause can be caused by a range of factors, including genetic triggers. Sufferers of Turner's syndrome have an abnormality on the X chromosome, which makes them infertile.
Increasingly women choose childlessness or delay motherhood until their late thirties because they want to concentrate on careers. More than one in six women who were born in 1955 were childless at age 40, compared to one in ten a decade earlier.
For those who want to become mothers in their late thirties, waiting so long can have a devastating effect. One in seven couples now seek medical treatment to help them to conceive.
The new procedure means that these women no longer have to choose between work and motherhood at vital stages in their careers. They would be able to have children well into their sixties.
WOMEN WHO WANT TO LOOK YOUNG AND ACTIVE
An ovarian graft would stop women going through the menopause and prevent the hot flushes, mood swings, sleep problems and depression experienced by many women in their fifties. The effect would be similar to hormone replacement therapy, which keeps levels of oestrogen high and has many health benefits. There have been some fears that HRT could increase the incidence of breast cancer and the new technique could be a safer option.
The treatment would prevent the onset of osteoporosis, known as brittle bone disease, which can lead to painful fractures, back pain and a loss of height, and which affects one woman in three during her life-time.Reuse content