Study questions ovary removal during hysterectomy

Published: March, 2014

Every year, an estimated 600,000 women have hysterectomies, mostly for noncancerous conditions such as fibroids, endometriosis, and uterine prolapse. About half have their ovaries removed at the same time (a procedure called oophorectomy). The main reason for doing so is to reduce the chances of getting ovarian cancer. But this form of cancer is relatively uncommon. The average woman's lifetime risk is less than 2%, though risk does rise with age.

Most physicians recommend oophorectomy for all postmenopausal women undergoing hysterectomy, evidently assuming that once her reproductive years are over, her ovaries will likely do more harm than good. But one study has challenged this assumption, suggesting that women generally derive no survival advantage from having their ovaries removed and, if they undergo oophorectomy before age 65, may actually be at greater risk for certain health problems.

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