WOMEN will be able delay the menopause by up to 20 years with a medical procedure that tricks their biological clocks into thinking they are much younger than they are.
Doctors say the 30-minute operation could transform the lives of thousands of women who suffer severe health problems, such as osteoporosis and heart conditions, brought on by the menopause.
It could also benefit millions more who experience debilitating symptoms such as hot flushes, a reduced sex drive, night sweats and mood swings.
The surgical procedure, devised by a fertility expert who is an IVF pioneer, involves removing ovarian tissue from women up to the age of 40 and freezing it. When the patient enters the menopause, the tissue is thawed out and grafted back into the body. To restore falling hormone levels, doctors typically choose a site with a good blood supply, such as the armpit.
Provided the ovarian tissue survives the process, it should restore the woman’s declining sex hormones and halt the menopause. It also has the potential to extend fertility — though doctors say the aim is to postpone the menopause rather than give women the chance to have babies into their 60s.
According to The Sunday Times, several British women, aged between 22 and 36, have had the procedure.
Teacher Dixie-Louise Dexter, 33, described the experience as ‘life-changing’. She had been diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 20 and underwent a hysterectomy last year.
Ms Dexter had the operation at the same time as having the menopause treatment, and had her ovarian tissue immediately placed back inside her.
As a result, she says she no longer suffers from pain, mood swings and hot flushes. ‘I had about 12 years of going through all sorts of different things and I thought my final option to win the battle was to have a hysterectomy,’ said Ms Dexter, of Woodville, Derbyshire.
When specialists told her about the ovarian grafting procedure, she said she was ‘a little anxious at first’ but now feels ‘really lucky’. More than a year after her surgery, Ms Dexter is fully recovered and pain-free, adding: ‘My quality of life has improved dramatically.’
The procedure is being offered by Birmingham-based company ProFam, run by Professor Simon Fishel, and costs up to £11,000. ‘We are empowering women to take control of their own health by naturally delaying their menopause,’ Prof Fishel said.