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Kid's Health (Archive)
Our award-winning Kid's Health Magazine is designed to provide healthful information for your growing child. Please Note: Kid's Health Magazine is no longer being printed. Please visit our blog at http://www.choc.org/blog for the latest articles about your child's health from the experts at CHOC Children's. You can also receive our electronic Kid's Health newsletter in your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list: http://www.choc.org/subscribe

State-Of-The-Art Fertility Options Help Patients Prepare For Life After Cancer

The CHOC Children’s Cancer Institute has a mantra: Treat every patient as a survivor. Those words are much more than a slogan. They guide the way doctors think about patient care.

 

“If meaningful survivorship is our goal, we need to be thinking about the consequences of the treatments we’re about to give someone,” says Leonard Sender, M.D., medical director of CHOC Children’s Cancer Institute.

One of the biggest problems cancer survivors face is fertility preservation. That’s why CHOC offers some of the most advanced oncofertility services in the world as part of its Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program, a joint effort with the University of California, Irvine.

Thinking Ahead
Oncofertility is a relatively new field that studies how cancer treatments affect fertility. After all, chemotherapy and radiation may be crucial tools for beating cancer. However, they can also damage reproductive organs.

The CHOC AYA Cancer Program has long offered fertility solutions for males. Young men can “cryopreserve” their sperm—freeze and store it for the future. Female patients, however, face a more difficult challenge.

“For a long time, we didn’t understand how chemotherapy affected the ovaries,” says Dr. Sender. “Over the last few years, however, the science has advanced considerably.”

Helping Young Women
One option for older adolescent patients is egg harvesting, similar to that used for standard infertility treatments. Doctors stimulate patients with hormones to produce many eggs, which are then cryopreserved. However, the procedure takes at least two to three weeks, before chemotherapy can begin. Most teens (who often have aggressive cancers) can’t wait that long.

Fortunately, there’s a new option for female patients who have started their period (typically 12 years old): ovarian cryopreservation. Here, doctors remove and freeze one of the ovaries. In the future, the ovary may be re-implanted and then “jump-started” to begin producing eggs again. It sounds like science fiction, but the procedure has been successful in older women. As part of an ongoing research program with the national Oncofertility Consortium, CHOC now offers this option to AYA patients.

“We’re paying forward, if you will,” says Dr. Sender. “These young girls may only need to think about fertility 10 years from now, but in that time the technology will improve, and re-implantations will be even more successful. What we know is that we have this brief moment before we start chemotherapy to preserve a patient’s fertility. That’s why we’ve activated this protocol. We are very excited to be participating in this cutting-edge research, and I believe it will become a major part of our survivor program.”

Take Comfort in CHOC Children's Quality
As Orange County's only hospital exclusively committed to the health and well-being of pediatric and adolescent cancer patients, you can count on our experience and expertise. To find out more about the oncofertility program at CHOC, please call 714-456-8025. To learn more about the CHOC Cancer Institute, visit www.choc.org/cancer.

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Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

CHOC Children's - 1201 W La Veta Ave, Orange, CA. Phone: 714-997-3000. .