What is Fertility Preservation?
Fertility refers to one’s ability to have biologically related children. Many treatments for cancer including chemotherapy and radiation therapy may decrease your child’s ability to have children in the future. Chemotherapy is also used to treat other diseases, that may also place your child's fertility at risk. Your treating team will give you information about the risk your child’s disease and its treatment may have on their future fertility.
Fertility preservation helps create the potential for children and adolescents at risk for impaired fertility to have the option to seek interventions to help reverse their fertility.
There are methods available that may help preserve your child’s fertility. Some of these methods involve costs not covered by governmental insurance, although financial assistance is available for families who qualify. Ideally, fertility preservation procedures occur before your child starts treatment. For some children it is necessary to start treatment immediately, which may keep them from using these methods. The SickKids Fertility Preservation Team is available to give you more information on these methods.
If you have questions about fertility preservation, ask your treating team to refer you to the SickKids Fertility Preservation Program.
Boys who have entered puberty may be able to bank (store) sperm. Usually, boys 13 years of age and older are able to sperm bank. If for any reason a boy who has undergone puberty is unable to produce a sperm sample by masturbating, other methods are available to obtain his sperm. When the patient is ready to have children his preserved (frozen) sperm may be used to conceive (make a baby). See the SFPP pamphlet, Sperm banking for young men (pdf).
TESTICULAR TISSUE PRESERVATION:
Younger boys who have not entered puberty do not make sperm. A method that might help these boys have biologically related children in the future is testicular tissue preservation. In a surgical procedure a small amount of testicular tissue is removed and then preserved (frozen). This technique may also be used in boys who have reached puberty but are not able to produce a sample on their own. In the future we believe that we will have the technology to use this tissue to make sperm, that may then be used to conceive a baby. Currently, this is an unproven technology.
OOCYTE (EGG) PRESERVATION:
Girls who have entered puberty may be able to preserve their eggs. This process involves hormonal stimulation to mature several eggs. These eggs are collected in a surgical procedure and are preserved (frozen) until the young woman is ready to have a baby. This process takes several weeks to accomplish and is expensive. It may not be a possible option for many girls.
OVARIAN TISSUE PRESERVATION:
Young girls and girls who have entered puberty may have their ovarian tissue preserved. Ovaries contain immature eggs. During a surgical procedure a piece of the ovary is removed and then preserved (frozen). After the girl has completed therapy, this tissue may be put back in her body to restore her ovarian function. In the future, it is believed that we will be able to produce mature eggs in the lab from this tissue, that these girls can use to have children. Currently, this is an unproven technology.
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