What is ovarian tissue freezing?
As the name implies, ovarian tissue freezing is when tissue from the ovarian cortex is extracted and frozen. The tissue contains follicles that each contain an immature egg. Depending on the procedure, a woman may have part or all of an ovary removed in a procedure called an oophorectomy. After the tissue is extracted, a laboratory specialist will remove the outer layer of the ovary that contains the eggs and cut the tissue into small pieces before freezing.
Tissue freezing isn’t a solution for all women
Unlike egg freezing, ovarian tissue freezing isn’t a solution offered as a general solution to delay conception and extend fertility. Typically, a woman must meet certain medical criteria before a physician recommends the procedure. The main reason includes not having eggs previously frozen before beginning cancer treatment. Tissue freezing is recommended for younger girls with a cancer diagnosis who haven’t entered puberty and wouldn’t be eligible to have eggs frozen. Likewise, women who can’t delay cancer treatment to freeze eggs, have recently undergone, or are about to undergo chemotherapy would also be candidates. Most experts agree that women older than 40 or women who have already undergone cancer treatments that caused a loss of most eggs aren’t good candidates for the procedure.
Using the tissue to conceive
When a woman is ready to try to conceive, specialists will thaw the tissue and insert it into a woman’s body onto or near the remaining ovary or where the previous ovary was removed. Note that the process can take several months before the frozen tissue begins to work again. While some women can conceive naturally after having the tissue implanted, other women may require in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The future of freezing
For now, ovarian tissue freezing is still considered a relatively experimental procedure. And there is also a risk that depending on the type of cancer a woman has, the ovarian tissue may hold cancer cells. But people shouldn’t discount the process. Especially for women facing an immediate need to start cancer treatments or young girls who are at risk of losing the chance to have children in the future, ovarian tissue freezing can serve as a lifeline to preserving fertility.