Learning About Oophorectomy

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What is oophorectomy?

Female pelvic organs

Oophorectomy (say "oh-uh-fuh-REK-tuh-mee") is surgery to take out one or both of your ovaries. Your ovaries store and release eggs so that you can get pregnant. They also make female sex hormones.

Why is it done?

You may have this surgery to:

  • Treat cancer of the ovaries.
  • Treat severe endometriosis.
  • Treat problems with your ovary. These include a cyst, a growth, an abscess, or a twisted ovary.
  • Reduce your risk of cancer of the breasts or ovaries. Some women have a higher risk of these cancers. These women have a gene change called BRCA (say "BRAH-kuh"). Taking out the ovaries and fallopian tubes greatly reduces the cancer risk for women with this gene change.

Some women have their uterus and ovaries taken out at the same time. In some cases, the fallopian tubes are also removed.

How is this surgery done?

The type of surgery you have depends on why you are having it done.

You may have:

  • Laparoscopic surgery. This type is often used to remove ovaries to reduce your cancer risk. It's also used to treat an abscess, a cyst, twisting, or endometriosis. It is done with very small cuts in your belly. The doctor then puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other special tools through the cuts in your belly.
  • Open surgery (laparotomy). This type is often used when laparoscopy isn't appropriate. It may also be used if there is a chance you have ovarian cancer. With open surgery, the doctor makes a larger cut in the belly. It takes longer to recover from this surgery than from laparoscopy.
  • Vaginal surgery. In this surgery, the ovaries and uterus are taken out through the vagina. Doctors may use a laparoscope during the surgery.

What can you expect after surgery?

  • If you had laparoscopic surgery, you may go home the same day. If you had open surgery, you will stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days.
  • Taking out your ovaries makes you start menopause. You may have hot flashes and vaginal dryness. You may urinate more often. And you may lose interest in sex. Also your risk is greater for other diseases, such as heart disease and osteoporosis. Medicine may help with all of these symptoms.
  • When both of your ovaries are gone, you can't get pregnant.
  • Taking out the ovaries does not always prevent cancer.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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