Should I remove my ovaries?

This question tends to come up when women are considering a hysterectomy. If the ovaries are normal, then you don’t necessarily have to remove them, especially if you have not yet gone through menopause. If your periods have stopped, then the ovaries are not working 100% anyway. If you are still having periods, removing the ovaries immediately takes you to menopause. You may experience menopause symptoms like hot flashes, bone loss, and low libido. Before you make your decision, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Is there a family history of breast or ovarian cancer? If so, consider genetic counseling and testing. Many women have a family history of cancer but are not quite sure what the details are. Insurance companies are now more generous with covering genetic testing costs because even they see that this information is important. I encourage you to work closely with a genetics counselor to avoid confusion or misinterpretation of your results. If you are at increased risk for ovarian cancer, the ovaries must go.
  2. Are the ovaries normal now? Do you tend to have cysts that are constantly being monitored by your doctor? Now may be your chance to get rid of them for good, especially if this makes you anxious.
  3. Do you have chronic pelvic pain that worsens with your menses? This pain is likely caused by your hormones. Think of it this way: the ovaries produce hormones that tell the uterus to contract and that causes you cramping. If you remove the uterus, then there is no cramping. BUT, if you have endometriosis, then bits of tissue from the uterus have escaped and are scattered all over your insides. So when the ovaries produce hormones, those rogue bits of uterus may respond and still cause you cramping. When you keep the ovaries, your pain may not resolve 100%.
  4. Have you had multiple surgeries on your belly? You probably have a lot of scar tissue. If you keep your ovaries and need surgery later, you’d have even more scar tissue. That could be a more difficult operation for you.
  5. Would you be a candidate for hormone replacement therapy once the ovaries are removed? If you choose not to do hormone replacement or you cannot have it for medical reasons, then consider keeping your own natural source of hormones for as long as possible.

Share your thoughts below. Did you have your ovaries removed? How do you feel about your decision?

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