It is estimated that 1 in 500 children will be diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer. Fortunately, with the use of aggressive treatment modalities, more than 80% of these children will be cured. Therefore, many of these children and parents are looking beyond the cancer at important quality of life issues and guiding their treatments to assure “normal” post-cancer survivorship.
Unfortunately, some aggressive treatments for cancer may often render a child infertile. The likelihood that this will occur depends on the child’s age, type of cancer and treatment plan. The Program for Fertility Preservation at Women & Infants Hospital now offers options for fertility preservation in children, working in coordination with the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
The physicians in the Program regularly meet with young women, young girls, and their families to review the effects of cancer treatment on ovarian function and fertility. They have recently started an experimental program to freeze tissue from the ovaries before they are damaged. Once the child is cured of her cancer and ready to have children this tissue may be transplanted back into her body or eggs may be extracted from the tissue for in vitro fertilization.
These experimental studies are being conducted with the support of the National Institute of Health’s Oncofertility Consortium, with the hope of determining how best to freeze the ovarian tissue of young girls. The Women & Infants/Hasbro site is one of only a few hospitals in the country, the only one in New England, to be enrolling children.