Diagnoses of cancer in children are devastating, and patients and their families can be overwhelmed with the immediate diagnosis and treatment of the disease. While survival rates for many childhood cancers have increased dramatically over the past 40 years, life-saving treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can also unfortunately render survivors infertile. The good news is, there are a number of established and emerging techniques to preserve a child’s future fertility. Read on to learn how to talk to your child about fertility, and what fertility preservation options are currently available to them:
How to Talk to Your Child About Fertility
Fertility is a complex idea, especially for children. Still, children should be involved in the discussion about how cancer treatment may affect their ability to have children in the future. Find age-appropriate ways to discuss the topic with your child. For example, you might ask your child if he or she wants to have children when they grow up. Although children and teens cannot give full legal consent because of their age, they must generally agree before a procedure (this is called assent). Parents must also give consent before the procedure.
Fertility Preservation Options for Girls
- Ovarian Tissue Freezing : An experimental procedure where a girl’s ovarian tissue is harvested and frozen, with the ultimate goal of being re-transplanted after cancer treatment to restore hormonal production and fertility. There are also methods in the research pipeline to mature ovarian tissue in the laboratory to produce eggs that can be fertilized and transferred to the uterus. Note: experimental procedures must be approved by an institutional review board and prospective patients must meet specific eligibility criteria.
- Gonadopexy: Gonadopexy is a procedure which involves surgically moving the gonads (ovaries) out of the pelvis in girls receiving pelvic radiation therapy.
Fertility Preservation Options for Boys
- Testicular Tissue Freezing: An experimental procedure where a young boy’s testicular tissue is retrieved by biopsy and frozen. This technique is reserved for young male patients who are not yet producing mature sperm, with the ultimate goal that their tissue may be used in the future to restore fertility when experimental techniques emerge from the research pipeline. Note: experimental procedures must be approved by an institutional review board and prospective patients must meet there are specific eligibility criteria that would deem a child eligible for this fertility preservation technique.
- Testicular Shielding: A procedure used to help keep a boy fertile by preventing damage to the testicles during radiation therapy. A protective shield is placed over the scrotum (the external sac that contains the testicles) during radiation to the pelvic area.
Fertility preservation is a way to ensure that children who survive cancer will have the option of having biological children when they are ready. To learn more about fertility preservation for children diagnosed with cancer, contact The Fertility Preservation in Pittsburgh today.