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Saving Fertility in Young Patients with Cancer

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It was very startling for me to learn that quite a number of patients who had undergone treatment for certain cancers were not told that one of the side effects of their treatment may be infertility. This still happens, even though directives given in 2006 strongly encouraged medical professionals to tell individuals in advance. In the cases where young adults are informed beforehand, sperm and eggs can be removed and saved for use later on.

So what hope is there for the very young cancer patients – those not even in puberty? In the past, these persons had to play the waiting game; wait until they grow up and see whether sperm or eggs properly develop. But now, some researchers are trying to find ways to help give patients like these hope. How?

Dr. Kyle Orwig from the University of Pittsburgh was interviewed in an article on FoxNews.com. Orwig heads up a clinical trial program entitled Fertility Preservation that banks stem cells from young male patients. The long-term objective is to place these same cells into the original donor. In regards to girls, who are born with a life supply of eggs at birth, scientists are hoping that the eggs can be sustained through long-term freezing. Additionally, doctors hope that the tissue taken does not contain cancer cells either.

At this point, this type of procedure has been successfully done in mice, rats, pigs and dogs. So how does this translate in regards to the human success rate? FoxNews.com stated that internationally, there have been a little over a dozen successful births in young women who were once very young cancer patients. Even though this is a new area of science, doctors and researchers still feel that families and patients should be told about this option. It could mean the difference between being able to have a baby and not.

Resources: FoxNew.com, Magee-Women’s Research Institute and Foundation

Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer and cartoon fanatic.

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