Fertility Preservation: Ovarian Tissue Freezing for Girls and Young Women With Cancer

This information describes ovarian tissue freezing, a fertility preservation option being studied for girls and young women who are starting cancer treatment.

For the rest of this resource, our use of the words “you” and “your” refers to you or your child.

Fertility and Cancer Treatment

You will be starting cancer treatment that may cause you to lose eggs. Depending on how many eggs remain after treatment, this may affect your fertility (ability to have biological children). Your fertility will also depend on how well your ovaries and uterus work. Many factors can affect fertility, so it’s hard to predict the effects of cancer treatment on each person.

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Egg Freezing

Egg freezing is a standard option to help improve a woman’s chances of having children after cancer treatment. For more information about egg freezing, ask your doctor or nurse for the resource Fertility Preservation: Options for Women Who Are Starting Cancer Treatment or search for it on our website at www.mskcc.org/pe.

However, egg freezing may not be right for you. Before puberty, girls do not have mature eggs that can be removed for freezing, so you may be too young to have this procedure. You may also not have enough time to have your eggs frozen before your cancer treatment begins since the process to freeze eggs takes about 2 weeks. If you aren’t able to have your eggs frozen, ovarian tissue freezing may be an option.

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About Ovarian Tissue Freezing

Ovarian tissue freezing is a fertility preservation option that’s still being developed. For ovarian tissue freezing, you will have a short surgery to remove either an entire ovary or pieces of an ovary. The tissue will be brought to a special laboratory in a fertility center. The outer layer of the ovary, which holds the eggs, will be cut into small pieces and frozen. A small amount of the tissue will be used in research studies to find the best way to help women have children using ovarian tissue. The rest of the tissue will be stored for you.

There are 2 ways you may be able to use the tissue in the future to try to have a child:

  • The tissue can be placed back into your body. This requires a surgical procedure where the tissue is placed back into your body, usually in the pelvis. Some women get pregnant naturally, while others may need in vitro fertilization (IVF). With IVF, mature eggs will be removed and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory to make embryos. The embryos will then be placed in your uterus to try to start a pregnancy.
    • As of 2017, over 70 women have given birth using eggs from their frozen tissue in this way. One of these was from tissue taken when the woman was a young girl.

  • Doctors are also studying how to mature eggs in frozen ovarian tissue without having to place the tissue back inside your daughter’s body. This way, the eggs would be removed from the tissue in a laboratory and fertilized with sperm to make embryos. The embryos would then be placed in your uterus to try to start a pregnancy.
    • No babies have been born using this process yet, but doctors are working to make this possible.

There is no way to know if ovarian tissue freezing will work for you, but doctors will continue to study ways to improve its success rates.

This procedure is not covered by insurance. You would be responsible for all costs involved in removing, freezing, and storing the tissue.

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Ovarian Tissue Freezing Eligibility

Ovarian tissue freezing is not an option for all girls and young women. Whether it’s an option for you depends on the type of cancer you have, your cancer treatment plan, and if you will be able to have the surgery to remove your ovary.

Ovarian tissue freezing is done at Weill Cornell Medical College. For more information, ask your doctor to put you in contact with a Fertility Nurse Specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering. They will schedule an appointment for you to discuss your eligibility with a fertility doctor at Weill Cornell.

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