The prognosis for cervical cancer has greatly improved over the years. However, it comes with a heavy price – the loss of the uterus via hysterectomy.
Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure of removing uterus of a woman as a consequence of cancer. About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the US each year. With hysterectomy comes the consequence that a woman can longer bear an offspring in her body for nine months. However, with the recent developments in reproduction medicine, a woman without a uterus can still have a “genetic offspring” from her own eggs which can be fertilized in vitro and borne by a surrogate mother.
This is probably one of the reasons why the practice of oophorectomy performed together with a hysterectomy is now placed under close scrutiny. It is reported that about 50% of hysterectomies performed also include the removal of the ovaries. The reason why many surgeons do this is pre-emptive – to prevent the development of ovarian cancer.
A recent review of clinical studies, however, indicate that the intervention of oophorectomy may actually be unnecessary in many cases. In fact, it can actually be detrimental to the health of the patient that it is supposed to protect.
What happens when a woman’s ovaries are removed?
- In a young woman, premature menopause sets in and the body can no longer produce female hormones.
- Early menopausal is linked to many diseases including heart disease, stroke and age-related disorders such as osteoporosis and dementia.
- A woman can no longer produce eggs, thus ruling out the possibility of having genetic offsprings.
- A woman probably has to have hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a treatment linked to many health problems, including cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer.
However, leaving the ovaries intact has some benefits. The organs will continue to produce female hormones and not be on HRT. The patient need not suffer from premature menopausal and biological aging. And most important, the patient can still reproduce through assisted reproduction.
There are of course circumstances where oophorectomy is highly recommended, even necessary. This is in the case of women who have high risks for ovarian cancer.
It is therefore advisable that the necessity of performing oophorectomy, especially in young women of reproductive age should be carefully considered by the doctors as well as the patient. However, if oophorectomy is absolutely necessary, a woman can still have her eggs frozen prior to the surgical intervention.
Check your options carefully. Cancer shouldn’t stand in the way of reproduction!