A new technique could enable more female cancer patients to freeze their eggs before starting cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy sometimes cause permanent damage to the ovaries and many women ask about freezing eggs so that they can undergo infertility treatment after they have recovered from cancer.
However, current methods mean that the ovaries must be stimulated at the start of a woman's period - meaning that at certain stages in her menstrual cycle, a woman may have to wait for up to six weeks before her eggs can be collected and she can start cancer treatment.
Now, German scientists have found a way to stimulate a woman's ovaries much later in her menstrual cycle, meaning that eggs can be collected within two weeks and cancer treatment can be started sooner.
Commenting on the team's findings, Dr Michael von Wolff of the University of Heidelberg revealed: "This pilot study demonstrates for the first time that mature oocytes (eggs) can be obtained before cancer therapy within a time frame of two weeks.
"Waiting for two weeks before they start cancer treatment is acceptable for most patients while this process happens," he added.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.