Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women. For a woman who needs a hysterectomy, an additional risk factor related to heart disease may be whether she chooses to have both ovaries removed (bilateral oophorectomy) in addition to her uterus.
The uterus, which is also called the womb, is a pear-shaped organ located in the abdomen which is part of a woman’s reproductive system. The ovaries are organs that are also part of a woman’s reproductive system which are located on either side of the uterus. Each month during a woman’s childbearing years, the ovaries release an egg which travels through a fallopian tube into the uterus. If the egg is fertilized, it implants in the wall of the uterus and grows into a baby. If it is not fertilized, it is flushed out of the body along with the lining of the uterus during her monthly period. In addition to providing eggs, the ovaries also produce hormones which are chemical messengers that help regulate a woman’s monthly cycle.
During a hysterectomy, a surgeon removes all or part of the woman’s uterus. This type of surgery is often used to treat cancer of the uterus and similar diseases. In some cases, there is a medical reason why the ovaries need to be removed along with the uterus. But in other cases, removing healthy ovaries is optional. For many years, doctors often recommended removing the ovaries to eliminate the risk of ovarian cancer. In recent years, several research studies have been done trying to determine if there are additional risks to women who have their ovaries removed to prevent future illness rather than to treat an existing condition.
The Women’s Health Initiative study gathered data on over 25,000 women ages 50 to 79 who had already gone through menopause and who had a hysterectomy. Approximately 56 percent of the group had their ovaries removed at the time of their hysterectomy. Seventy-nine percent of the women used some type of hormone replacement therapy following surgery.