Ovarian tissue freezing is another way to help women and girls keep their fertility so they can have a baby after their cancer is cured.
It would not normally be recommended for women who are suitable for IVF (test tube baby treatment), but it is the only way to preserve fertility in girls who have not gone through puberty.
Why might a woman consider this?
More than 80% of young women diagnosed with cancer are now cured. However, sometimes the drug and radiotherapy treatment can damage their ovaries, so they are unable to become pregnant afterwards.
IVF before starting the drugs or radiotherapy can only be used to treat women who have a partner (or who would use sperm from a donor to fertilise their eggs).
For women with no partner, it is possible to freeze some of her eggs but this has a lower pregnancy rate.
IVF and egg freezing cannot be used in women with certain types of cancer or in young girls before puberty.
One of the woman’s ovaries is removed during a short operation called a laparoscopy, under general anaesthesia. The ovarian tissue is then frozen and stored.
The freezing technique — called cryopreservation — allows the tissue to be stored safely in ultra-deep freeze for many years until the woman is ready to think about her fertility options. The thawed tissues can then be transferred back in another small operation.
Although the technique has been in use for more than 20 years and around 100 babies have been born (worldwide), it is only successful in around 50% of women in whom the ovarian tissue is transplanted back.
Any woman who thinks this treatment might be suitable for her should discuss this with the doctor who is treating her cancer.
If the doctor feels this might be helpful, they should contact our service as soon as possible (before starting the cancer treatment) via the details listed in the contact information section. He/she will be asked to complete an e-referral form.
Alternatively, a copy of the form can be requested and returned by email using the same email address on this page.
It is vital the doctor makes this referral as soon as possible as the procedure to obtain the ovarian tissue must be performed before cancer treatment (chemotherapy or radiotherapy) begins.
For patients whose GP is within the North Central London Integrated Care System, comprising of Camden, Islington, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey, NHS funding (subject to clinical eligibility criteria) has been agreed.
For NHS patients from elsewhere in the UK, an ‘individual funding request’ must be submitted by their referring doctor.
We will review your referral urgently and if your case is suitable for ovarian tissue freezing, will inform you and your referring doctor.
If provisionally appropriate, you will then be given an appointment for an outpatient pre-assessment. During that visit, you will meet one of our team who will explain the procedure in detail and answer your questions.
For suitable patients who wish to proceed, we aim to perform the surgery within five days of receiving the referral.