MEDICS in Southampton are performing a pioneering procedure that offers new hope to cancer patients who feared their treatment would end any chances of having a family.
For the first time in Hampshire, young girls and babies faced with the devastating diagnosis can have their fertility saved before undergoing treatment.
The Complete Fertility Centre, based at the Princess Anne Hospital, is one of only a few clinics in the UK offering this groundbreaking technique known as ovarian cryopreservation, as well as embryo and egg freezing, which it has also launched.
Consultant gynaecologist Dr Kirsten Schmidt, who pioneered the procedure while working at the University Hospital of Copenhagen, has been drafted into Southampton to launch the new treatments which have proved a huge success in Denmark over the past ten years.
The technique involves removing and freezing one of the patient’s healthy ovaries containing eggs 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 other ovary to allow them to try to conceive naturally or the eggs are retrieved and used for IVF treatment.
Before ovarian cryopreservation, babies and young girls who had not reached child-bearing age had no chance of saving their fertility, as egg and embryo freezing could only be carried out on women.
Dr Schmidt said: “This is the only alternative for young girls and to be honest there is no lower age limit for this.
“This service definitely meets a need. It is one of only a few clinics in the UK to offer it and I am thrilled to be able to offer my expertise to launch this here in Southampton."
The procedure costs between £4,000 and £5,000 but there are discussions with the NHS about providing the funding.