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Ovary Removal Is NOT Always Necessary. Find Out Why

The surgical removal of one or both ovaries is called oophorectomy. The ovaries are a part of woman's reproductive system. They store and release eggs for fertilization and produce estrogen and progesterone. If one ovary is removed, a woman may continue to menstruate and can still bear children. If both ovaries are removed, menstruation stops and the woman loses her ability to have children.

Ovary Removal

Oophorectomy or ovary removal is performed to:

  • remove cancerous ovaries
  • remove the source of estrogen (ovaries) that stimulates some cancers
  • remove large ovarian cysts in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • excise an abscess
  • treat endometriosis
  • lower the risk of an ectopic pregnancy
  • lower the risk of cancer in a woman with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer.

Removal of both the ovaries is called bilateral oophorectomy. In younger women who have yet to complete their families, fertility sparing approach is used where only one ovary is removed. This is called unilateral oophorectomy. When uterus is removed along with ovaries and fallopian tubes, the surgery is called "Total abdominal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy". A prophylactic oophorectomy is performed where there is a strong family history of ovarian or breast tumors.  The ovaries are surgically removed through small incisions in the abdomen, using an instrument called a laparoscope.

Removal of the ovaries does eliminate the risk of ovarian cancer but to begin with most women are at extremely low risk for the disease to start with. Ovarian cancer accounts for only 6% of female cancer deaths. But ovarian cancer is usually fatal because it is often detected during the late stages of the disease. On the other hand, removing a woman's ovaries to prevent ovarian cancer appears to put other parts of her body at risk. The ovaries after menopause still produce androgens that the body converts to estrogen. The continuing hormone production post-menopause not only affects a woman's sex drive and mood, but it also appears to offer additional protection to the bones and heart. So, women with a strong family history of ovarian cancer have more to benefit from removal of the ovary than women with a strong family history of heart disease or osteoporosis. Also, women with a history of psychological problems before an oophorectomy are more likely to experience psychological difficulties post the operation.

Since there is so much controversy involving the removal of ovaries and the procedure itself has its inherent risks, it is best to avoid it unless the condition is life-threatening. Ovary problems are best treated with holistic medicine which will eliminate the primary cause of the problem and aim at improving general health. As health improves the functioning of the ovaries along with other vital organs will also perk up.


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