A procedure that can delay menopause by 20 years- myth or reality
A treatment plan has been recommended by a clinic located in the United Kingdom that promises to push back the start of menopause by at least 20 years. While the procedure isn’t itself new, this will be the first time it’ll be used in the context of menopause to delay it. There have been only 10 women who have undergone this procedure, so its effectiveness in delaying menopause is still sorely limited. Experts who have studied this procedure and its consequences warn that postponing menopause can add to the risk of developing breast cancer.
ProFam, a Vitro fertilization (IVF) firm, has come up with a medical procedure that could ensure the postponement of menopause for a period of 20 years. The process is known to cost anywhere between £7,000 to £11,000. The procedure involves several steps. It begins with the removal of a tiny part of ovarian tissue that is then frozen. It is later thawed out and used to delay your menopause by reimplanting it.
The procedure is not a new one. It has successfully been put to use to ensure the preservation of fertility in women who have been suffering from cancer at a younger age. However, it’s application in delaying menopause is pretty new. Various developments in the medical field have lead to a longer life span, which has prolonged women’s post-menopausal stage of life as well.
There has been very little data, research and experiments to understand the true extent of effectiveness of the surgery. However, after conducting the experimental procedures, doctors hope it can be used extensively to postpone menopause.
Workings of the procedure
The initial part of the procedure has been implemented on 10 women so far. They have had their ovarian tissue extracted, and it has been frozen. However, the procedure to reinsert it hasn’t been performed yet.
In an interview conducted recently with Healthline, Fishel stated, “My desire to do this now is to give the opportunity for a young generation of women to use what we believe is no longer an experimental procedure by many experts. If we continue to delay, each generation will continue to miss out”.
Freezing ovarian surgery has been performed countless times in the past to ensure continued fertility in young women who suffered from cancer. The procedure involves performing a keyhole surgery in order to remove a piece of a woman’s ovarian tissue. The tissue that is extracted can be easily frozen for any number of years you want to, including decades.
The second part of the procedure involves thawing out the frozen ovarian piece and reinserting it to the part that is optimum to restart the blood supply and begin the functioning to balance out the decreasing hormone levels again. You might be surprised to know that the reimplantation is not done in the ovary or anywhere near it. It is done near a location like an armpit that is relatively easier to observe.
An infertility specialist with the Yale Fertility Center and a reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Amanda Kallen, put it as “The site doesn’t have to be the ovary, and in fact, regrafting the tissue onto or near the ovary requires a more invasive surgical procedure”.
It could keep health issues caused by menopause at bay
The doctors at ProFam the procedure can help resolve or diminish the various health issues that women going through menopause face due to the variety of changes happening in their bodies. Dr. Kallen put it as, “At menopause, estrogen levels fall dramatically, and women experience a new set of health problems associated with low menopause, including cardiovascular disease, declining bone density, and osteoporosis, and symptoms like hot flashes, depression, and sleep disturbances”. So if menopause is postponed, these health issues can be easily alleviated.
If a woman has had a stroke or a blood clot, hormone replacement therapy might not be the best course of treatment for them, which is usually recommended to help decrease the symptoms of menopause. In such cases, freezing your ovarian tissue can be a good alternative if hormone replacement therapy is not compatible with your body.
The procedure might cause other health risks
The whole procedure and everything the doctors have been able to ascertain about it is still in its trial stages. This involves safety issues, and it’s effectiveness. Even though there are 10 women who have opted to have the procedure, they are still in the initial stages of it. They haven’t had it implanted yet. So there is literally no evidence of what happens once it is inserted again.
Experts are unaware of the duration of the viability of transplants from the time they are reintroduced to the body. When used for cancer patients, the tissues were not able to survive for a long period of time regardless of how young their ages were. The UCSF Center for Reproductive Health’s director, Dr Marcelle Cedars put it as, “Available data, when this has been done with much younger ovaries (young cancer patients), find that their survival can be quite short — much shorter than their quoted 20 years”.
Menopause is the most natural phase of life. It is not a disease and ailment that you can somehow avoid or cure. Hence, when it is artificially delayed, it disrupts the natural processes of the body leading to a number of health complications. There is some evidence testifying to the fact that when menopause is delayed, it can cause side effects that are detrimental to your health. There is a possibility of becoming more susceptible to ovarian cancer due to this procedure.
Cedars states it as, “There are plusses and minuses to delaying menopause. While prolonged estrogen would delay heart disease and osteoporosis, delayed menopause is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer”.
However, there are various healthcare professionals that are positive the procedure can be put to good use and the side effects skillfully avoided. They have stated that it is a possibility that huge masses of women can benefit from this procedure to relieve them of several painful health conditions.
Kallen states, “The possibility that we will someday routinely be able to ‘delay’ menopause… is so exciting. But it’s also so important that these interventions be studied carefully, and safely, in controlled clinical trials, before we are routinely offering them as potential options for our patients.”
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