Push to preserve sick kids’ chance at having family
Babies diagnosed with cancer are having their tiny ovaries removed and frozen so that one day they can have babies of their own.
Fertility preservation treatment in infants is not yet mainstream, but News Queensland can reveal doctors have launched an appeal to have cryopreservation in children who face fertility damaging chemotherapy listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule after the Government knocked back an earlier application.
Supported by some of the country's top oncologists and fertility doctors, including Queenslanders, the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children's Hospital made the application to the Medical Services Advisory Committee to help fund procedures for newborn babies up to prepubescent kids.
The application was refused on grounds that there needed to be long-term proven results of live births.
Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital is just one of over 20 locations in the world to offer the freezing for ovaries for girls and one in 16 to offer testicular tissue freezing for boys.
The doctors' appeal comes as new research published this week in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery shows the removal of ovaries for fertility preservation has been found safe and without complication in girls as young as five months.
"We won't see the results for some time so the Government needs to be forward thinking on this. Cancer survival rates are climbing and we have to consider the future lives of these babies and children. Fertility preservation in infants is happening but it is not common, " fertility specialist Dr David Molloy said.
"We put forward an application to the Government for the freezing of ovarian and testicular tissue in children and both were declined," he said.
In the US, women who have had ovarian tissue cryopreservation as girls have yet to give birth, although two cases have been reported in Europe.
The preserved tissue can be implanted on to the remaining ovary in later life where it can function normally and enable natural pregnancy.
"Babies are born with millions of eggs and that declines to about 400,000 by age 12. So the earlier the freezing process the better," Dr Molloy said.
The new research is from the Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Gold Coast's Charlie Shirran was 10 months old when he had his testicular tissue frozen. Charlie was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. He had chemotherapy, major surgery to remove a tumour from his adrenal gland, a bone-marrow transplant and immunotherapy
His mum Jo is a strong advocate of parents being told of fertility preservation when a child is diagnosed with cancer.
"At time of diagnosis everything can be overwhelming and it is all a blur. This topic should definitely be in the discussion or included in information leaflets. We flew to Melbourne and Charlie had laparoscopic surgery and testicular tissue frozen. I'm so glad we did," mum said.
"Fertility is not the first thing you think about in a baby but it's important to think of the future."