REPRODUCTIVE medicine has achieved groundbreaking milestones, and Malaysia is one of the countries that is sought after by couples near and far to realise their dreams of having a baby.
Now, through Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation (OTC), female cancer patients will have the opportunity to preserve their fertility.
Sunfert International Fertility Centre (Sunfert) is the first private fertility centre in Malaysia to offer this innovative service.
Sunfert Group founder and director Dr Wong Pak Seng shared, “Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation is a revolutionary technique that plays a vital role in preserving fertility for female cancer patients.
“By safeguarding their ability to have children in the future, these women and young patients empower themselves to fulfil their dream of a family when they are ready. Sunfert is able to make the dream of parenthood a reality, even in the face of medical challenges.”
The OTC procedure was introduced in Denmark and Europe over 25 years ago. This innovative technique involves harvesting the entire ovary and dissecting the cortical layer containing eggs using a laparoscopic procedure.
One major advantage of this procedure is that there is no need for medication, eliminating any potential side effects or complications. Additionally, this procedure can be performed quickly, taking only about 15 to 20 minutes.
The ovary is then removed and frozen in a specialised titanium device and stored in a cryopreservation tank at minus 190 degrees Celsius for 10 to 20 years. Once the patient has been cleared of cancer and is ready to start a family, the tissue can be transplanted back into the patient.
Associate professor Dr Mohd Faizal bin Ahmad, a fertility specialist at Sunfert, emphasises that OTC is well-suited for pre-pubescent girls who may be diagnosed with cancer, as they typically lack mature eggs suitable for freezing.
“OTC is also a great option for women in their reproductive years who are suddenly diagnosed with cancer and need to start chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments right away.
“Compared to alternative methods such as embryo and egg freezing, OTC offers a less invasive and more time-efficient procedure. This procedure allows female cancer patients to preserve their fertility and maintain their hope of having children in the future.”
Dr Faizal believes that preserving fertility is an important consideration for patients, especially for those in the minority age group of under 18 years old, as cancer can significantly impact their prognosis.
“Early awareness is crucial because childhood cancer has shown excellent survival rates, with over 70% of patients surviving primary cancer treatments.
“However, the quality of life, specifically in terms of fertility, can potentially be reduced. Therefore, it is essential to prioritise fertility preservation to ensure that these patients have the opportunity to have children in the future and maintain a higher quality of life post-treatment.”
According to Dr Faizal, every year, a significant number of women of reproductive age are diagnosed with cancer.
The good news is that these cancers have shown excellent prognoses due to advancements in early detection and the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
This means that more women are able to receive timely medical intervention, increasing their chances of successful treatment and long-term survival.
As the OTC procedure becomes more prevalent and research data becomes more accessible, there is hope for the field of oncofertility to continue developing.
Dr Faizal envisions a future where financial assistance is provided to underprivileged patients in Malaysia, and the government, particularly the Ministry of Health allocates a budget to support this strategy.
“By addressing the fertility potential of cancer patients alongside their survival, there is an opportunity to improve overall outcomes in cancer treatment.”
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