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 75% 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, the 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 Oncology at Hasbro Children's Hospital.
"Having a child diagnosed with cancer is a parent's worst nightmare. But juxtaposing the knowledge that your child may survive, and then may never be able to naturally have children of her own, can be heart-wrenching," said Sandra A. Carson, MD, director of the Center for Reproduction and Infertility at Women & Infants.
Jared Robins, MD, leader of the Program for Fertility Preservation, said, "Freezing a part of a baby's ovary to preserve her fertility 20 or 30 years down the line is a research procedure. Although we are far from knowing all of the facts about its efficacy, we do believe that we can give a promise of fertility to these young cancer survivors."
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 supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, and Women & Infants Hospital is one of only a few hospitals in the country, the only one in New England, to be enrolling children.
Women & Infants' Center for Reproduction and Infertility is the largest fertility program in Providence and a critical resource for thousands of couples from around the region hoping to have a baby. The Center's medical professionals are internationally recognized for their unparalleled experience in all areas of reproductive medicine. The entire IVF cycle is performed in Providence, and the frozen embryos are also stored here.