New initiative offers fertility hope for childhood cancer patients

A ground-breaking initiative by the Irish Cancer Society will give children being treated for cancer the best possible chance at starting a family of their own in later life.

Over 200 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in Ireland, with the necessary treatment often damaging their fertility and impacting their chances of being able to have children in future.

Ireland currently lags behind other European countries in having no state-funded fertility preservation service for children and adolescents with a cancer diagnosis.

The charity’s new Childhood Cancer Fertility Project delivered in association with Merrion Fertility Clinic will see hundreds of children, adolescents and young adults given a precious chance at future parenthood through the use of cutting-edge fertility preservation methods.

The Childhood Cancer Fertility Project is designed to be the forerunner for a new national fertility preservation programme on its completion.

The three-year project represents a €420,000 investment as part of the Society’s commitment to childhood cancers in its new five-year strategy.

Irish Cancer Society Director of Services Delivery & Innovation Donal Buggy said: “A cancer diagnosis in childhood can have a devastating impact on the future ability to have a family. We believe it is vital that all children and their parents have the opportunity to discuss fertility preservation options and have access to appropriate specialist services.

He continued: “Due to lack of availability of publicly-funded specialist fertility services here, families of young children who have just received a life-changing cancer diagnosis can be left with the agonising choice of seeking assistance abroad and all the associated costs, or taking a chance on their child’s future fertility after treatment.

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We know the ability to have a family is hugely important for cancer patients’ quality of life after treatment, so this project will make a big difference for children who may not have been given that chance in the past.

Irish Cancer Society Director of Services Delivery & Innovation Donal Buggy
Donal Buggy

“It will also provide counselling for patients and their families to help them understand and explore fertility options available to them, improve the referral process for such treatments, and empower healthcare professionals to inform their patients about the availability of these services,” he added.

Project Clinical Lead Prof Mary Wingfield said: “Loss of fertility is one of the less visible side effects of cancer treatment and it can have a devastating effect on survivors – on their quality of life, their mental health and their relationships.

“This funding grant will make such a difference to so many children, adolescents and their families, and I am so grateful to the Irish Cancer Society for enabling this service,” Prof Wingfield concluded.

The Childhood Cancer Fertility Project is supported by the National Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Fertility Preservation Consortium comprising the Irish Cancer Society, Merrion Fertility Clinic, the National Maternity Hospital, and Children’s Health Ireland, with further support provided by the National Cancer Control Programme.

Childhood Cancer Fertility Project