Oophorectomy: Removing Potentially Troublesome Ovaries

A woman’s ovaries constitute a key to her body’s hormones. Although the rate of surgical ovarian removal – called oophorectomy (oof-er-EK-tuh-mee) – has declined since 2005, thousands of women (primarily aged 35-54) undergo this operative procedure every year.

“For women with a family history or genetic tendency to breast and ovarian cancer, one benefit of removing the ovaries includes reducing the risk of those cancers by about 80%,” says McLeod Gynecologist Chris McCauley, MD.  “Pain relief from severe endometriosis or intense premenstrual syndrome also offer benefits. Ovarian torsion, a twisted ovary, can require the surgery.”

Despite the oophorectomy’s benefits, it requires a serious discussion with your Gynecologist.  Although ovary removal ends pain from endometriosis in about 85% of the cases, the procedure is usually the last choice for treating the problem.

If only one ovary is removed, the remaining organ can continue to produce estrogen with a minimal change in a woman’s hormones.  Removal of one ovary should also not significantly reduce a woman’s chances of having a baby.

However, removing both ovaries (a bilateral oophorectomy) results in immediate menopause with its accompanying symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes.

A Gynecologist often performs the oophorectomy as an outpatient procedure.  If both the ovaries and the uterus (hysterectomy) are to be removed, a hospital stay may be needed. Many of the surgeries are performed laparoscopically with small incisions.  If a larger abdominal incision is needed a hospital stay of several  days may be required.

After surgery, the patient feels some discomfort but should be able to return to normal activities in about 2 weeks.

The importance of a woman’s ovaries cannot be understated.  The organs, one on each side of the uterus, store eggs for reproduction and produce hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.  If you experience one of the reasons that may lead to an oophorectomy, talk openly with your Gynecologist about the surgery.

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Sources include: McLeod Health, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, Prevention.org, American Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists