What is oophorectomy?
Surgery to remove the
ovaries is called oophorectomy (say "oh-uh-fuh-REK-tuh-mee"). The ovaries are
an important part of the
female reproductive system . They store eggs and produce sex hormones, including
Of women who have a
hysterectomy, about half of them have their ovaries removed at the same
time.1 The main reason doctors recommend removing the
ovaries along with the uterus has been to prevent
What are the benefits of oophorectomy?
experts feel that for women at average risk for ovarian cancer or breast
cancer-this means no personal or family history of ovarian or breast cancer-the
benefits of keeping the ovaries outweigh the risks. For women at average risk,
there seems to be no clear benefit in removing the ovaries at any age.
Hysterectomy itself can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.1
If you have severe
premenstrual syndrome (PMS), oophorectomy will stop
the hormone changes caused by your ovaries. This may help you feel
Oophorectomy is sometimes recommended when the hormones
produced by the ovaries are making a disease such as breast cancer or severe
If you are at high risk for breast or ovarian
cancer, having your ovaries removed can greatly lower your risk. Women at high
risk for these cancers include those who:
- Inherited a BRCA gene change (BRCA stands for
- Have a family history of ovarian cancer before age
- Have a type of breast cancer that is affected by estrogen.
(Estrogen is made by the ovaries.)
To learn more about your choices if you are at high risk
for breast or ovarian cancer, see:
What should I do if I'm at high risk for breast cancer?
Should I have my ovaries removed to prevent ovarian cancer?
If you don't know whether you are at high risk for breast
or ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor. If your doctor feels you could be at
risk, you may want to think about gene testing. For more information,
Should I have a gene test for breast and ovarian cancer?
What are the risks of oophorectomy?
long-term issue to consider is your body's early drop in estrogen after an
oophorectomy. Without estrogen, you have difficult menopausal symptoms and your
bones begin to thin. This increases your risk of osteoporosis in later
Having your ovaries removed before age 65 may increase your
chance of getting:1
which can lead to broken bones. Hip fractures are a well-known cause of
disability and death in older women.
- Heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in women in the
Women who choose oophorectomy can take
estrogen replacement therapy. This treatment does not
prevent heart disease, but it may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. If a woman
already has bone loss, other medicines can help protect her bones.
If you have your ovaries removed before the age of
menopause, you will go into early menopause. This can
cause hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms.
Most women do
not have problems after hysterectomy and oophorectomy, but any surgery has
risks. The most common problems are:
- Fever. A slight fever is common after any
- Trouble urinating or
loss of bladder control.
- Heavy vaginal bleeding. You can expect some vaginal
bleeding for 4 to 6 weeks after a hysterectomy.
- Scar tissue (adhesions) in the pelvic area.
For more information, see the topic