Ovary removal and cancer risk: weigh your options

September 1, 2009 by  
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chanceWhat a bummer! Many women undergo oophorectomy in order to prevent the development of cancer, a procedure which comes with a heavy price – losing the ability to reproduce. Now comes the next blow: while the risk for ovarian cancer is drastically reduced with the procedure, the risk for lung cancer is greatly increased.

Oophorectomy is a surgical procedure that removes a woman’s ovaries. The procedure is performed to treat problems with the ovaries but it is already performed as proxylactic intervention in connection with cervical and breast cancers.

According to information from the Mayo Clinic:

Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations have a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Several options are available for reducing the risk of cancer in these women. One option is preventive (prophylactic) oophorectomy, the surgical removal of the ovaries. Although removing your ovaries is usually performed to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, oophorectomy can also reduce the risk of breast cancer.

During a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) due to cervical cancer, it is also a common practice to remove the ovaries to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Some studies have questioned the necessity of this, considering the repercussions, namely

  • Loss of reproductive potential
  • Premature menopausal
  • Hormonal problems

A recent study by esearchers at the University of Montreal indicates another effect of removal of the ovaries – increased risk for lung cancer.

The researchers looked at 422 women with lung cancer and 577 men and women without lung cancer and collected data on

  • socio-demographic characteristics
  • residential history
  • occupational exposures
  • medical history
  • smoking history
  • menstrual history
  • pregnancy history

The study results revealed that women who went through non-natural menopause have almost double the risk of developing lung cancer compared to women who experienced natural menopause.

 In particular, women who have had non-natural menopausal as a consequence of surgical removal of ovaries are at an increased risk. The median age of those who went through normal menopause was 50 years; those who went through it non-naturally, either by surgery or as result of radiation or chemotherapy was 34 years. It wasn’t clear whether the study distinguished between oophorectomy that was absolutely necessary and prophylactic oophorectomy.

According to Dr. Jack Siemiatycki a professor at the Université de Montréal’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and a scientist at the Research Centre of the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal

“Non-natural menopause, particularly surgical menopause, may represent an increased risk with younger age at menopause given that surgery is usually done before natural menopause occurs. It’s possible that vulnerability to lung cancer is caused by early and sudden decrease in estrogen levels or potentially long-term use of hormone replacement therapy and further research is needed to explore these hypotheses.”

Many health experts believe that women should very carefully the think about the decision to have the ovaries removed unless there is a very strong medical reason for it. Weigh your pros and cons carefully!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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