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Hysterectomy: ovaries need not be taken out!

Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure wherein the uterus of a woman is removed completely. This intervention is usually performed in women with cervical cancer. About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the US each year and about 50% of these also include oophorectomy, which is the removal of the ovaries. The reason why surgeons tend to remove the ovaries as well is preemptive – to prevent the development of ovarian cancer.

However, a recent review of clinical studies indicate that this intervention is actually unnecessary, even unbeneficial to the health of the patient that it is supposed to protect.

Once the ovaries are removed, premature menopause sets in. Under such circumstances, women who are at premenopausal age are placed under hormone replacement therapy which, in recent years, has been linked to many health problems.

However, when the ovaries are left alone, they will continue to produce female hormones that provide protection from many of these problems including heart disease, stroke and age-related disorders such as osteoporosis and dementia.

Another advantage of leaving the ovaries in place is the fact that young women can still have children even if they don’t have a uterus. They can still produce eggs which can then be fertilized and implanted in a surrogate mother’s womb.

There are of course women who have high risks for ovarian cancer and for them, this oophorectomy might be necessary. But for a large of number of premenopausal women, ovary removal is not justified, the study says.


Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jul 16;(3):CD005638, 18 July 2008

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