Ovary Removal (Oophorectomy)
Women must have one or two healthy ovaries in order to become pregnant. Women who undergo surgery to remove an ovary can still get pregnant, especially if they are ovulating (if the ovary releases an egg each month), however their chances of conceiving are significantly reduced. There are several reasons why women might be advised to remove an ovary or conditions that necessitate them to have one or both ovaries removed.
What is Oophorectomy?
Oophorectomy is surgical ovary removal; it can be unilateral (the removal of a single ovary) or bilateral (the removal of both ovaries). Oftentimes oophorectomy is carried out in conjunction with a hysterectomy, the procedure in which a woman's uterus is removed.
The following are some of the reasons women may undergo ovary removal:
•1) Women who have or who are at risk for ovarian cancer. In case of the latter, although removing the ovaries can prevent cancer, it also means that women won't be able to conceive normally and that their estrogen supply will be greatly reduced. Since estrogen is a key hormone for women, this is one of the factors doctors will take into consideration before deciding upon ovary removal.
•2) Women who are at high risk for breast cancer (i.e. strong family/genetic history of the disease). In this case, preventative oophorectomy is performed specifically for the purpose of reducing estrogen supply since estrogen has been linked with increased incidence of breast cancer.
•3) Ovarian torsion, wherein an ovary becomes twisted (often due to a cyst).
•4) Tubo-ovarian abscess, wherein a lesion between the ovary and fallopian tube becomes filled with pus.
•5) Endometriosis, a condition in which the endometrium (the inside lining of the uterus) irregularly begins to grow on other organs, such as the ovaries. The two most common consequences of endometriosis are infertility and severe pelvic pain.
•6) Severe polycystic ovarian disease, a female endocrine disorder that is a major cause of infertility.
Consequences of Ovary Removal
•- Premature menopause, including menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep difficulties, and night sweats
•- Increased risk of osteoporosis due to inability to produce estrogen and progesterone hormones
•- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
•- Increased risk of premature aging
To counteract some of these effects, women who undergo bilateral oophorectomy - the removal of both ovaries - are immediately prescribed hormone replacement medications.
Oophorectomy can be performed by laparoscopic surgery - which entails making small cuts in the abdomen, a short recovery time, and minimal scarring. However, surgeons more often choose the surgical method of making a large abdominal incision (despite the fact that this results in a more visible scar and recovery is significantly longer) since the large incision allows for a better view of the inside of the abdominal cavity.