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A Focus On Family

AYA cancer patient with Dr. Karen Albritton

When a cancer diagnosis is made, everyone's first focus is on treatment options and what needs to happen immediately. Additionally, a patient's future ability to have a child of their own is top of mind. The side effects from cancer treatments can be detrimental to reproduction, for both males and females.

Through our existing fertility program in our Hematology and Oncology Center, Cook Children's doctors now can offer fertility preservation counseling that includes a new option for patient families fighting cancer. The current options are sperm banking for male patients and egg freezing for females, but only females who have reached puberty. Thanks to advanced breakthroughs in medicine, egg freezing is available for pre-pubescent females as well.

Females are born with all the eggs they will ever produce, and those eggs begin to mature as the females hit puberty. For patients whose eggs have not matured (for example, a 5-year-old with cancer), a new process called ovarian tissue cryo-preservation may be used.

In the procedure, doctors remove the ovarian tissue that contains the eggs for freezing and appropriate storage. This is also an option for post-pubescent patients who need immediate treatment and are unable to wait the two weeks it takes to retrieve and freeze mature eggs.

"Cook Children's Promise extends beyond treatment and into survivorship issues, such as fertility," said Karen Albritton, M.D., medical director, Adolescent and Young Adult program at Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology Center. "We are excited about this new program and believe it's a safe way to offer hope to patients who otherwise would not have an option."

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