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 may be done alone or as part of a hysterectomy.
Oophorectomy is often needed when pelvic disease,
ovarian cancer, is present. And it 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 to try 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?
About 10 out of 100 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. 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 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?
If 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:
Not taking hormones. When an
oophorectomy is done before a woman's natural age of
hormones may be prescribed
afterward to reduce the risk of
osteoporosis, hot flashes, and other
menopausal symptoms. Ask your doctor about other
problems that may be related to using hormone therapy.
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 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.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.