Young girls suffering from cancer may be able to have radiation treatment without forfeiting their chance of having children in later life. The process of freezing ovarian tissue has so far only been used for research purposes but it will now be available at three hospitals in the UK - Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Leeds General Infirmary and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
The process involves the freezing of a pea-sized piece of ovarian tissue containing immature eggs in liquid nitrogen at minus 200C. However, there is some opposition to the technique from some doctors based on the fear that cancer cells could survive in the frozen eggs and cause the disease to return when they are transferred back to the patient. It is expected that there will be a growing demand for this treatment as the number of children surviving cancer increases.
In 1995, a three year old girl made medical history when she became the first child to have her ovarian tissue frozen. Doctors carried out the procedure on Harriet Selka before giving her radiation therapy for a kidney tumour.