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A new treatment saves cancer patient fertility

Photo: Treatment saves cancer patient fertility
More young cancer patients will be able to keep their fertility hopes alive thanks to a new treatment mastered in Melbourne.

Battling cancer was tough enough for Julia Thompson without the added agony of knowing the aggressive treatment might end her chances of ever giving birth.

The Warrnambool woman knew her diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2010 would impact her ability to have children.

So she repeatedly tried IVF to harvest eggs, without luck.

In 2011, Ms Thompson took part in a fertility-preserving trial in which reproductive tissue is frozen and stored, at Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital.

"I just wanted to give myself and my partner, now husband, the best chance of having a child," she said of her decision to take part in the trial, before a bone marrow transplant.
"There was hope of getting well and having a family."

Months after the transplant, she was cancer-free.

As part of the trial, one-third of Ms Thompson's ovary was sliced into 100 pieces, then frozen, with half later grafted into her abdominal wall.

She had IVF to extract an egg and gave birth to Hugh in November 2017.

"This is a dream come true, we pinch ourselves every day," the now-38-year-old said.

The National Ovarian and Testicular Tissue Transport and Cryopreservation Service hopes to deliver similar success to other aspiring parents.

The service, to be launched at a conference in Hobart on Monday, will allow tissue to be collected and frozen for patients across Australia.

It will offer hope to young people of reproductive age, undergoing serious treatment that puts their fertility at risk, including cancer treatment, that they can still be parents.

Only four per cent of young women and a quarter young men undergo fertility preservation before chemotherapy, the Royal Women's Hospital said.

Women's Fertility Preservation Service's Associate Professor Kate Stern said fertility counselling was a key part of cancer management, but many did not know their options.

"This service will ... give access to state-of-the-art fertility preservation to young people who might have thought that it's the end of the road for their fertility."

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