Having a hysterectomy? 5 side effects of having your ovaries removed

Here are some reasons why you may keep your ovaries if you’re having a hysterectomy.

About 6000 hysterectomies are performed in the U.S every year and about half or these are accompanied by removal of apparently normal ovaries. The reasoning behind this is that it reduces the occurrence of ovarian cancer, i.e. if your ovaries aren’t there, then they can’t become cancerous.

Ovarian cancer is not common – about 1 in 400 American women will develop ovarian cancer by the age of 50. The main problem with ovarian cancer is that it is usually detected in the late stages when treatment becomes virtually useless.

Unfortunately, removing the ovaries before the age of 65 also carries some major health risks. If you’re having a hysterectomy for a benign (non-cancerous) condition, here are 5 reasons to keep your ovaries:

  1. You will have less chance of developing ovarian cancer. Does that sound confusing? Let me explain. When you have a hysterectomy, the surgeon looks at the ovaries to make sure that they’re healthy before the abdomen is closed up. Any abnormal looking ovaries are usually removed at this point. A more likely explanation according to some studies that have been done suggests that:
    • removal of the uterus closes the route through which cancer-causing agents like talc, uterine tissue and the human papilloma virus would have reached the ovaries,
    • destruction of some tissues of the reproductive system cause release of substances which in turn cause the production of antibodies which protect you from developing ovarian cancer.

    This reduced risk of developing ovarian cancer lasts for 10-20 years after the hysterectomy.

  2. After menopause, the ovaries continue producing the hormones androstenedione and testosterone until the age of 80. These hormones are converted to estrone, the main form of estrogen found in the body after menopause. Removal of the ovaries even after menopause can cause sudden onset or worsening of menopause symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances and depression.
  3. You’ll be less likely to have a hip fracture. Estrogens and androgens slow down the rate at which bone is broken down in the body. Removing the postmenopausal ovary removes a major source of androgens which are converted to estrogen. One study has shown that women who had their ovaries removed after menopause had a 54% higher risk of having a fracture due to osteoporosis than postmenopausal women who still had their ovaries.
  4. You will have less chance of developing heart disease. The absence of the sex hormones that are produced after menopause further increase your risk of developing heart disease. This could be bad news especially if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Recent research has shown that women who have their ovaries removed have a much higher risk of developing heart disease.
    Two groups of women (one group had their ovaries removed and the others kept theirs) were studied and the results showed that the women who had their ovaries removed:

    • had a higher chance of dying (12% increase)
    • had a higher risk of developing heart disease (17% increase)
    • had a higher chance of developing lung cancer (26% increase)

    However, they did not develop ovarian cancer and were less likely to get breast cancer.

25 Comments

  1. I’m a 48year-old lady. I have 2 fibroids in my uterus, one has harden (about 3.5 cm) and the other was detected 7 months ago measure 3.0 cm and now it becomes larger at 5 cm. I also had cyst in my right ovary 2 years ago. The largest size detected was 5.5 cm but it has disappeared. 2 weeks ago, doctor detected a cyst of 3 cm in my left ovary. He said most lightly the cyst will disappear.
    Doctor advised me to have removal of uterus. If I were to have uterus removed, it will be my 4th operation ( 1st operation was due to Meckel divertculum, 2nd and 3rd were cesarean section). The operation would be more complicated than a person who has not undergo any operation at all. Therefore, he asked me to consider to have both ovaries removed too, to avoid any operation due to ovaries problem in future.
    I’m concern about this operation as it will be the 4th operation.What would be the risk of the 4th operation? I’m worry about the negative impact of having both ovaries remove too. Can you please advise what would be a better chice for me ? Thank you very much.

  2. I went to the doctor for 3 lg fibroids. He saw me for about 20min. Now he wants to give me a TAH-BSO I was wondering if I can keep my ovaries if nothing is wrong with them. My surgery is in 2 weeks and I am so scared. Will the sergeon let me keep them if I ask them to???

    • Hi Anna,
      did your doctor actually discuss the various options with you? Did he tell you why he wants to remove your uterus (as opposed to removing the fibroids and preserving your uterus) and your ovaries as well? Talk with him and ask him to give you the advantages and disadvantages and your alternatives. It’s your body you’re talking about and you have to live with it, not your doctor. He should be able to give you enough information to make an informed decision. If not, consider getting a second opinion. I’m not your doctor and I haven’t examined you so I don’t know the specifics so your doctor may have very good reasons for wanting to do a TAH-BSO (=total abdominal hysterectomy + bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy = removal of the uterus, both fallopian tubes and ovaries for those who don’t know) . But I do feel that adequate information is the very least that every woman is entitled to.

  3. I am 38 and I had cervical cancer so they remove my uterus and ovaries. since then I fill so different . I fill confused , I dont think correctly .I forget things . like some things wrong with my brain. I dont know if this normal . I need help.

  4. MaryAnn Rolllings

    I am 65 and am having a hysterectomy for cystocele and uterine prolapse. I have a sister with cervical cancer in her 30s; I would like your advise regarding having my ovaries removed at the same time as the hysterectomy.
    thank you

  5. i’ve had a hysterectomy in which the doctor remove my both ovaries. I will like to know will i have any serious complication in life after that. Will the removal of my ovaries have affect me in time to come, am truly scared.

  6. Desperate mother

    Wow, after reading all these comments I am truly scared. 4 years ago at the age of 34, I had a partial hysterectomy where they only took out the uterus for inflamed pelvic veins. Just this last year I started feeling really sore nipples, intense pelvic pain, chest pains, and an increase weight gain. Is this just the onset of premenopause or is it the ovaries. I’ve been tested for my ovaries and everything looks great. I’m overall a pretty healthy person. It just doesn’t make sense why I would feel like I’m in so much pain. I’m suppose to do a surgery soon for incontinence and now after reading the postings, I feel like I never want a doctor to touch me again.

  7. Hi I am 53 yrs old and had a hysterctomy in 2006. The doctor removed my ovaries to prevent cancer. I do not take hormones because it caused weight gain. But right now I am getting hot flashes. What can I do. And I heard this is common.

  8. i had a partial hystorectomy about 4years ago. My doctor just removed my uterus. He left my overies because he said that they were fine,but here i am 4 years later with great pain on my left side. I took a Pelvis ultrsound and if said that i hade two complex cyst in my left ovary about 5.1cm. So my doctor sent me for a follow up Pelvis Ultrsound two week later and the results from that one is one large simple cyst in my left ovary which have grown to about 5.7cm. I also took a MRI of the Pelvis with and with out contrast an a CA125. Do you think i need surgury to remove it i’m 44years old.

  9. l had partial hyst 20 yrs ago now i am feeling very sick sore boobs back and pelvic pain hurts to walk

  10. I really don’t think just because someone had a hysterectomy – that it lead to ovarian cancer – my best guess is that they likely would have gotten ovarian cancer regardless of their surgery. Coincidence.

  11. I lost my mum last year to Ovarian cancer. She was 75. At 51 she had a hysterectomy, ovaries left in.
    She had an operation two years ago to see if any growth could be removed, none could. Mum had to endure gruelling chemotherapy which did not work (6 sessions).
    On the ward, in the hospital she had her operation at, were many women aged from around thirty to seventy plus. Each had been given a womb only hysterectomy and then had to go back in for surgery, due to ovarian cancer developing. All of the ladies then had to do chemotherapy. The chemo is only 50% successful.
    Hysterectomy? everything out, don’t settle for second best.
    Ovarian cancer in uk is diagnosed in about 6000 people in the UK a year, don’t be a statistic.Take care.

  12. I realize this article is a few years old now, and being a woman that had my “woman hood” stolen from me at age 27(due to hysterectomy), I do appreciated your awareness on the affects of a hysterectomy. That being said – I must say this article is dissapointing and WRONG in a few area’s. You stated Ovarian Cancer is not common! Ovarian Cancer is very common, it is more common than you are stating and it is article’s like this one that mis-lead thousands of women. I realize that you are probably unaware of this because well, most people are. But, I suggest you do your research before making a statement that is totally wrong.

  13. I really need advice, can I please have a consultation with you? I would be happy to pay a fee. I am trying to make a decision to keep an ovary or not during a hysterectomy. I am age 41, my Mom currently has Ovarian cancer, but the genetic tests show she does NOT carry the gene to pass it on. I have endometreosis .
    Thanks you for your time.

  14. I have been concerned that I may have ovarian cancer. I have an onocologist that has been monitering me due to enlarged lymph nodes with questional biopsy results. I had a partial hysterectomy 29 yrs ago and was told the ovaries were cystic but left for hormone production. I was also told that the ovaries would need to be removed in the future and gave them 5 yrs. I never had them removed and do have symptoms of ovarian cancer now. My abdominal area has swelled up that I look pregnannt. I do not have weight gain anywhere else. I had the ca-125 blood test last year but it was ok then. I am also in final stage of Myasthenia Gravis and fighting cellulitis in my legs from build up of lymph fluid and lasix ddoes nothing for me. My next visit I plan to bring up the subject of ovarian cancer with my onocologist. Wish me luck…………

  15. I had a partial hysterectomy at the age of 28. I still have one ovary. I had what the doctor called “precancerous cells”. But, now I have alot of strange things going on such as breast tenderness and lack of sex drive. I still have one ovary so I’m not sure if it’s premenopause. I don’t have night sweats or mood swings either. Should I worry about cancer in the other ovary? The doctor said it may need to be removed in the future. This was two years ago.

  16. Please help, what about removal of both overies, only the overies, when only one has a cyst on it?
    It is supposed to be a clear liquid cyst… which has grown to be about the size of a tennis ball.

  17. Ovarian cancer is definitely not the most common cancer in women. However, every woman that develops cancer of the ovaries is more than just a statistic. That said, it’s a good idea to have a transvaginal ultrasound scan every year. Other screening methods are not too well developed right now. Don’t panic, just be vigilant

  18. I just had a hysterectomy 2 weeks ago. My doctor said I could vertually do anything excep heavy lifting. But I read no bending. I have been bending until no.

    I just read about the mother that contracted ovarian cancer after a partial hysterectomy. The doctor left my ovaries due to the fact I had no cancer in the operation. Now I am worried. Do I need to have regular ultra-sounds to check my ovaries through life.

    Thanks.

  19. I’m sorry for your loss Amy. I did mention that keeping your ovaries can result in developing ovarian cancer later in life. However, I was trying to emphasize that the benefits of keeping the ovaries can outweigh the risks for some women. I just think that women should be given as much information as possible to make an informed decisions about their bodies and their health. It is unfair to give them only one side of the story. Every woman is different. I am not for or against keeping the ovaries. I believe in giving women viable options when it comes to their health. Take care and God bless you.

  20. I have a very good reason for not keeping your ovaries. My mother had a hysterectomy over 31 years ago and the doctors left her ovaries. May 21, 2007 she was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer. After 56 days in the hospital and 2 surgeries later my mother died August 14, 2007. Her last three months on this earth was hell. If those doctors would have removed her ovaries I would still have my mother and best friend.

  21. Hi Nora. Thanks for dropping by. As you may have noticed, I strongly believe that women (and men as well for that matter) need to have as much information as possible both for and against any procedure they are having. Unfortunately information is often skewed towards one particular point of view. Checked out your site. You have a lot of resources there. Very interesting. Good luck with your activities and have a great day.

  22. You’ve make several excellent points. One of the problems women face is that we are not taught about female anatomy and what happens to a woman’s body when their female organs are removed.

    At http://www.hersfoundation.org/anatomy you can watch a short female anatomy video that every woman needs to see:

    Female Anatomy: the Functions of the Female Organs

    • Doesn’t sound too hopeful, in fact very depressing to someone who has to have a total hysterectomy in two days. I am absolutely terrified, the only thing I have to look forward to is just living, what’s the point of it if this is what I have to look forward to. I have no symptoms of cancer but biopsy showed severe dysplasia outside perimeter and MRI revealed cancer cells deep within cervix, right ovary 5.5 cm but seeping in several areas it has ruptured several times (which is the only symptom I feel) I’m feeling deeply depressed and I don’t even have it done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *