A first-of-its-kind surgical procedure could delay menopause by up to 20 years. Doctors at ProFam in Birmingham, England, have performed it on 10 British women ranging in age from 22 to 36.
In the surgery, a portion of a patient's ovaries are removed and the tissue is then cryogenically frozen. When the woman gets closer to the age of menopause, doctors thaw and re-implant the tissue. That restores the patient's younger, natural hormones.
CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus calls it a remarkable development which also raises many questions.
"A hundred years ago, the average life expectancy was in the 50s," Agus told "CBS This Morning." "So now really we're living, or women are living, with four or five decades of having menopause. So menopause, osteoporosis, increased heart disease, obviously, potentially memory problems, and others, you can delay that with this procedure."
The problem is, no one knows what kind of effects the procedure will have on people as time goes by. And no one will know for several decades.
"For all we know it could change cancer risk," Agus said. "It could change cognitive function later as you get older. We just don't know the answer."
Agus said he hopes the women undergoing the procedure will have their progress tracked so doctors can learn from their experiences. Agus also said procedures along these lines have been available for decades for women battling, but not women who are healthy.
"Women who are about to undergo chemotherapy that can bring on menopause at a very young age, we've been able to store pieces of their ovary and then re-implant it and many of them have been able to go on and have children," Agus said. "This is very different, though. These are women who don't have any other medical issues to delay menopause."
So who, if anyone, should be considering this procedure?
"I spoke yesterday with someone at the clinic and what they told me was the majority of the 10 women who have done it, their mothers had gone through significant side effects when going through menopause," Agus said. "There's no answer who should have this. Presumably some women say, listen, nature says my hormones go down, I will do that. Or I want to take a pill a day that will actually. But here's a biologic way to potentially keep menopause delayed."
Agus said after the tissue is re-implanted, it could potentially be taken out again.
"This tissue turns active again as soon as they put it in," Agus said. "And the power is, if you don't like what's happening, they could potentially take it back out."
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