Freezing of eggs or ovarian tissue enables young women to achieve pregnancy after breast cancer and chemotherapy / Heidelberg University Women’s Hospital offers various approaches for the preservation of fertility
For the first time, a patient of Heidelberg University Hospital has become pregnant after transplantation of her own ovarian tissue. This patient was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, and removed parts of one ovary prior to beginning therapy. The tissue was stored in a cooperative effort at the University Hospital Bonn – Women’s Clinic. With the re-transplantation, she can now have children without further medical intervention. “The patient is currently in her fifth month of pregnancy, and everything is going well. We have no reason to worry,” explains Professor Dr. Bettina Toth, who leads the Fertility Clinic of Heidelberg University Women’s Hospital, including the program to preserve fertility after chemo and radiotherapy. So far across Germany, four children have been born after this treatment. Until a few years ago, young women suffering from breast or certain other types of cancer were frequently no longer able to have children because of the aggressive chemotherapy. Today there are various possibilities to preserve the chance for a woman to have her own children.
Certain chemotherapies damage the ovaries and testes
Certain medications for chemotherapy as well as radiation to the pelvic area can - depending on the required dose – damage the ovaries and testes so significantly that affected patients are rendered temporarily or permanently infertile. Often, the production of sex hormones also fails, and menopause can occur even in young women. Cancer types for which therapy often damages the ovaries and testes include breast and ovarian cancers, lymphomas, leukemia, cancers of the digestive tract, bone cancers, as well as testicular and prostate cancers.
“Many young patients have not yet completed their family planning at the time of diagnosis,” says Professor Strowitzki, head of the Department of Gynecologic Endocrinology and Fertility Disorders. "For them, the question of whether they can still start a family and have their own children after treatment plays an important role." At Heidelberg University Women’s Hospital, they can receive fertility consultation during specific department office hours. In such cases, the oncologist to perform cancer treatment will always be included as well. All modern techniques for the conservation of fertilized as well as unfertilized eggs or ovarian tissue, as well as artificial insemination, are available. In addition, new medications minimizing damage to the ovaries or the testes during chemotherapy are used.