The 4th February was World Cancer Day and here from our little plot of turf, we also want to do our bit.
What can an Assisted Reproduction centre do in the fight against cancer? This is the first question we’re asked. – Really, the answer is a lot or a little, depending on the way you see it.
Nowadays, cancer treatments have majorly developed and have succeeded in achieving a great number of cures, and possibly within a short space of time, there will be many more cured. We at Ginemed contribute to this fight against one of cancer’s consequences: infertility.
That is, we want to do our bit in making life normal for those who after their fight against cancer, that they – after overcoming the illness – are able to reintegrate themselves back into normal life – as if they had never had to live through such terrible illness. Those, whose cancer appeared in their youth and have no children, will want to have children later in life to complete one of life’s vital cycles: being born, to grow, to reproduce and to die.
How can we succeed in doing this? Thanks to one of the best advances in biology: life can be preserved in low temperatures. This is done through such techniques as egg vitrification and the freezing of spermatozoids, and now also the vitrification of these spermatozoids, introduced not so long ago. It is this technique in which we are pioneers here at Ginemed. And thanks to the collaboration of the University Of Seville´s satellite company, we have developed the latest technology.
Preserving fertility is conserving gametes (eggs and spermatozoids) before cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can damage the gametes. The conservation is done through vitrification, an ultra quick freezing system, which avoids damage to cells by the formation of ice crystals (remember 95% of a cell is made up of water.) Following the vitrification, we maintain the gametes submerged in liquid nitrogen, which guarantees temperatures are below -196 C. In these conditions, the cells stop their metabolism and are able to remain alive without being damaged for many years, which is more than in a person’s lifetime.
That is, when somebody, who has overcome cancer, which is now happening more and more, wants a child, they only have to defreeze their gametes (or a part of those) and use them in one of the assisted reproduction techniques that we carry out in reproduction centres.
It does indeed sound like magic, but more and more men and women are having a child with those eggs or spermatozoids that they preserved in anticipation, when at a time concentrating on something else – fighting cancer, but now, once overcome, they are thinking about wanting to return to normal life, to form part of a family (or perhaps extend a family) and find the joy in which children bring to their lives.
So yes, today our contribution in the fight against cancer is not in terms of the treatment but in the consequences, in returning the hope and happiness to those who have undergone the terrible suffering of a difficult disease and been able to overcome this.
Pascual Sánchez Martín.
Gynaecologist and Medical Director at Ginemed