Maybe the Ovaries Should Stay

Hysterectomy patients who kept both ovaries had slightly lower risk of heart disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) When cancer isn’t involved, women may want to hang on to their ovaries for other health reasons. Depending on the case, removal of the uterus may not have to include the ovaries too.

A recent study followed a large group of women for nearly 30 years to see whether removing the ovaries along with the uterus in cases of non-cancer hysterectomy helped or hurt.

The results of the study showed that women who had their ovaries and uterus removed before hitting 50 and who did not take estrogen therapy had a higher risk for heart disease and lung cancer.

"Talk to your gynecologist about ovary conservation."

William H. Parker, MD, professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine and board certified Fellow in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, led a team to look at the risks associated with removing the ovaries in a hysterectomy.

The surgical removal of a woman’s uterus, or hysterectomy, can, but does not always, include the removal of one or both ovaries. In the case of uterine, ovarian or cervical cancer, a radical hysterectomy – which calls for the removal of the uterus, both ovaries and the cervix – is often done. But when cancer is not the reason for removing the uterus, removing the ovaries may not be necessary.

For the study, 30,117 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, all of whom had undergone hysterectomy, were followed for 28 years.

Just over half (16,914) of the women had hysterectomies that included the removal of both ovaries.

Women who had their ovaries removed during the hysterectomy were more likely to die from any cause than women who still had their ovaries (17 percent compared to 13 percent).

However, ovarian cancer was more common in women who still had their ovaries. Only four women who had their ovaries removed died from ovarian cancer, compared to 44 women who still had their ovaries.

Women who were less than 50 years of age, had their ovaries removed during a hysterectomy and never used estrogen therapy were at higher risk of dying from heart disease and lung cancer.

The researchers also found that removing both ovaries did not increase the chances of staying alive, regardless of age.

This study appears in the April issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

No funding sources were made available to the public. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 24, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013