Oophorectomy is the
surgical removal of the
ovaries, the part of a woman's reproductive system
that stores and releases eggs for fertilization and produces female sex
Oophorectomy is often necessary when pelvic disease,
ovarian cancer or severe
endometriosis, is present. In the United States, more
hysterectomies (the surgical removal of a woman's
uterus) are performed each year. About half of these involve removal of the
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Oophorectomy is sometimes recommended when the
hormones produced by the ovaries are making a disease such as breast cancer or
severe endometriosis worse.
In some cases the ovaries are removed
in an attempt to reduce the possibility of developing a future disease, such as
ovarian cancer. This is called a prophylactic oophorectomy.
What are the reasons to have an oophorectomy?
10% of women who have a hysterectomy also have a condition or disease that may
increase the need for an oophorectomy.1 These
conditions or diseases include:
Heredity (inherited) diseases. Women who have certain abnormal
genes (known as BRCA1 and BRCA2) have an increased
risk for developing ovarian cancer before age 70. These women often develop
cancer around age 45, which is about 20 years earlier than women who do not
have these genes. If your mother or sister has had ovarian cancer, or you know
that you have an abnormal BRCA gene, you may consider having your ovaries
removed. You will not be able to become pregnant after having this surgery. And
your risk for developing ovarian cancer will drop to nearly zero. Your breast
cancer risk will also be lower. Talk to your doctor to decide if this choice is
right for you.
Breast cancer. Hormones
produced by the ovaries increase the risk of
breast cancer. Oophorectomy may reduce the risk of
breast or ovarian cancer in women who have the abnormal genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.
Oophorectomy is sometimes recommended to treat breast cancer, because it
eliminates the hormones produced by the ovaries.
Suspected disease. When a premenopausal woman is scheduled to
have one ovary removed during the surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy)
because disease is suspected, removal of both ovaries may be recommended if
disease is found.
What are the reasons not to have an oophorectomy?
you do not have an increased risk of ovarian cancer or another disease that
requires the removal of your ovaries, consider the benefits of not having your
ovaries removed. These benefits include:
Fewer fractures. Removal of the ovaries increases the risk for developing weak
and brittle bones (osteoporosis), because the body no
longer produces a large amount of estrogen. The risk for developing
osteoporosis following an oophorectomy is greater in young
Long-term survival benefits. When
comparing women who do and don't have their ovaries, experts estimate that
women live longer when they keep their ovaries until at least age 65. This may
be because women who have their ovaries have fewer hip fractures (stronger
bones) and are less likely to develop
Parker WH, et al. (2005). Ovarian conservation at the
time of hysterectomy for benign disease. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 106(2): 219-226.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Sarah Anne Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
July 15, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
July 15, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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