Since the 1970’s, gynecologists would generally advise women who are hysterectomy candidates to also have their ovaries removed, along with the uterus. The idea was to prevent ovarian cancer, which is difficult to detect but often deadly. However, Roni Rabin reports in a New York Times story that a new study finds compelling reasons for women to keep their ovaries.
The study, published in the May issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, tracked almost 30,000 women over the span of 24 years. It found that women who had their ovaries removed were at a greater risk for heart disease and lung cancer, and were more likely to die of cancer than those who left their ovaries untouched. For women who had their uterus and ovaries removed before they turned 50 and did not take estrogen, these risks were even higher. Scientists believe the continued production of estrogen may be the reason why women who kept their ovaries tended to live longer.
The lead author of the study, Dr. William H. Parker of the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA, explained why women should consider keeping their ovaries because although ovarian cancer is difficult to detect and treat, it is much rarer than heart diseases. Every year, heart diseases kill more than 20 times the number of women than ovarian cancer.
Of course, there are women who will benefit from removing their ovaries, especially those who are at high risks of getting ovarian or breast cancer. A patient with strong family history of either cancer should definitely consult with their doctor to decide the best course to take.