Ovarian cortex cryopreservation involves freezing ovarian tissue before cancer treatment so women may be able to have children later. Fertility preservation is a common concern for young women diagnosed with cancer, particularly women diagnosed with cancer affecting their reproductive system. In some cases, surgery to remove the cancer may require removal of the ovaries, cervix or uterus. Even without surgery, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy may damage the ovaries.
Ovarian cortex cryopreservation may offer women the chance to have children after treatment if other assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are not ideal for their situation. Women choosing this procedure first will undergo minimally invasive laparoscopy to remove an ovary. The ovary also can be removed during any abdominal surgery a woman may need. Then, the ovary is taken to a lab, cut into thin sections and frozen.
After treatment, the frozen tissue may be thawed and implanted into the woman for natural conception. The transfer of tissue back into the body is called ovarian tissue transplant. Alternately, the frozen tissue may be stored for future use. It would then be taken to a lab to grow the immature follicles. This process is known as in vitro follicle maturation. The egg then would be taken from the fully grown follicle and joined with sperm.
Both these procedures are relatively new and should be considered carefully with your oncologist and an infertility specialist. Women have had successful pregnancies and deliveries after ovarian tissue transplant, but it may not be appropriate for women with leukemia, lymphoma and ovarian cancer. In vitro follicle maturation has not resulted in a successful pregnancy to date and is still considered an experimental procedure.