A cancer patient has become the first woman in the UK to successfully have a child after having her frozen ovarian tissue re-implanted. The patient is a 33-year-old woman from Edinburgh, and she is reported to have given birth to a healthy baby boy. While not the first time this has ever been achieved, this is the first time the operation has been successfully conducted in the UK.
“The storage of ovarian tissue to allow restoration of fertility after cancer treatment in girls and young women was pioneered in Edinburgh over 20 years ago, and it is wonderful to see it come to fruition,” explains Professor Richard Anderson, from Edinburgh University, to the BBC. “This gives real hope to girls and young women facing treatment that may cause them to become infertile, and shows how some medical advances can take a long time to show their benefits.”
The operation to remove tissue from the woman’s ovaries was conducted 11 years ago, just before she started chemotherapy to treat her cancer. When all that was complete and she had been given the all clear, the tissue was then re-implanted into her only last year. “That the re-implanted tissue took so quickly, came as a really wonderful surprise,” says the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous. “I'm incredibly appreciative of my oncologist's foresight in sending me for the consultation with the fertility team.”
The first-ever re-implantation of ovarian tissue happened in America in 1999, when a 29-year-old woman had her ovaries put back in after they were frozen at the age of 17, but only after she tracked down a doctor who was willing to do the procedure. The freezing of reproductive tissue is now becoming more common, as even boys and girls as young as 1 year old can undergo the procedure before they too are put through chemo. Their tissue samples are stored until they are old enough to have them re-implanted when they are ready to have children.
The woman from this latest operation hopes that the success of the procedure will give hope to those who are facing the possibility of being put through grueling chemo. She added: “When you're going through cancer treatment it can be hard to think about the future, but I do think this will offer hope to others that they could one day have a family.”