We love a good news story, especially in the lead up to the holiday season, and science is delivering one this month for people whose fertility is affected by cancer treatment.
The National Paediatric Fertility Preservation Service began in 2013 with no central funding and has been committed to pioneering work for more than a decade, thanks to the goodwill of surgeons, nurses and laboratory staff. The programme was set up for NHS doctors to focus on preserving fertility for those who undergo cancer treatment in childhood and who cannot store mature eggs or sperm.
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However, the team also felt that 33 year old Shana (now 37) could benefit from the treatment, when she was diagnosed with aggressive stage three breast cancer in 2018. The cancer was progressing so quickly that there was no time to go through regular IVF treatment, and so she and her husband went to a specialist clinic in London who referred her to the team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
This year, their little girl, Sienna, became the first child born in England after the pioneering surgery. In a beautiful tale of determination, the Sunday Times reported that on the morning of her operation, Shana’s gynaecologist, Christian Becker, walked three miles through thick snow to get to the hospital to ensure the surgery would not have to be cancelled. She started chemo a few days later and also had a double mastectomy. After two years of treatment and medication, she had her ovary reimplanted and an IVF process ensued to minimise the time she had to stop taking Tamoxifen.
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She told the newspaper: “It was really hard. I wanted a baby so badly and knowing that I had that option, it really gave me hope for the future.”
It is highlighted that the treatment would not be suitable for everyone, but it's a very promising step in the right direction for anyone faced with a cancer diagnosis at a young age.