News National Ovaries ‘put into hibernation’

Ovaries ‘put into hibernation’

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Thousands of young cancer patients could be saved from early menopause with a monthly injection, according to an Australian-led international study.

The injection can be used during chemotherapy to put the ovaries into “hibernation” by disrupting a woman’s hormonal system.

This doubles a young patient’s chances of being able to have a baby naturally after her chemotherapy treatment. It also reduces her risk of damaging early menopause.

The goserelin injection was tested on women with breast cancer, but it could help all young women who receive chemotherapy, says study leader Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria.

It is useful regardless of whether they intend to have children or not.

Eight per cent of participants who received the treatment experienced early menopause after chemotherapy, compared with 22 per cent of women who received a placebo injection.

“Early menopause brings with it the potential for increased risks of osteoporosis and cardiac disease.

“Even if a pre-menopausal woman does not desire children, avoiding chemotherapy-induced menopause is still important,” says Prof Phillips, who is in Chicago to present the findings at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Women who want to protect their fertility should still freeze embryos, if possible, she says.

However, freezing embryos does not prevent early menopause.

Some studies of the treatment have been more positive than others, says Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Ian Olver, who is also attending the conference.

“Cancer survival rates have improved, which means patients can plan a family.”