Women made infertile by cancer treatment may have increased hope of having a baby in the future thanks to research which has shown that the window of opportunity for egg collection can be extended.
Patients who have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment can choose to have their eggs collected and stored, but currently the stimulation of ovaries to produce eggs has to be done at the start of a woman's menstrual cycle.
Depending on when she is diagnosed with cancer, a woman may have to wait six weeks before her eggs can be collected – time she may not have if her treatment is urgent.
However, researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany have now shown that ovaries can be stimulated during the final phase of the menstrual cycle, increasing the option for some women of preserving their fertility.
Dr Michael von Wolff, who pioneered the new approach, said: "It can take between two and six weeks to start ovarian stimulation and collect oocytes (eggs). Two weeks is an acceptable amount of time in many diseases to wait before starting a cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, but three to six weeks is far too long."
The study showed that mature eggs can be obtained before cancer therapy within two weeks.