Routine Removal of Ovaries During Hysterectomy May be Harmful

The advice I’ve always given women past menopause who were having hysterectomies for some good reason (it used to be simply medical fashion), has been to leave their ovaries in place—and especially so for women who haven’t yet reached menopause.   A recent study conducted by Saint John’s Health Center and reported on Reuters seems to confirms my advice.

During hysterectomy operations, surgeons often remove a woman’s ovaries as well as her uterus. But new research suggests that for women are not at high risk for ovarian cancer, removing the ovaries during hysterectomy may adversely impact long-term health.

For decades gynecologists have taken them out with the idea that after menopause ovaries no longer functioned, and were just laying around waiting for ovarian cancer to develop. Well, turns out, as it seemed reasonable to me, that ovaries DO function after menopause, they just function differently than before, making less estrogen and progesterone, but they continue to contribute to health—in fact, it would appear that they play a role in preventing heart disease, stroke, and death from many causes, including lung and other cancers.

Taking them out does indeed reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, but this benefit is far outweighed by the detriment. For women who survive 35 years after hysterectomy, there is 1 premature death for every 9 cases where healthy ovaries are removed. I think its generally a good policy to assume that all the parts we arrive with on this planet have a purpose throughout life, even if we haven’t figured out yet what it is. Just because we can survive without an appendix, tonsils, or ovaries, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to surgically remove it unless it is irreversibly damaged, infected, containing cancer, or otherwise a serious liability and beyond repair.