All hysterectomies are not alike. Whether performed abdominally or vaginally, with or without the cervix, and inclusive or exclusive of the tubes and ovaries, one surgeon's discarded tissue specimens are another surgeon's salvaged organs. What most women don't realize however, is that there is no one right answer, and that they too should be decision makers in their own hysterectomies.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, more than half of all U.S. women who undergo hysterectomy also undergo oophorectomy, or removal of their ovaries. The classic thought behind taking them out in a sort of hysterectomy deluxe , kill two birds with one stone fashion, is that removing ovaries can also remove the potential risk of developing ovarian cancer. Last year, 14,600 U.S. women died from ovarian cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The fallacy in this argument, of course, is that not every ovary will develop cancer if left alone. Most women in in the remaining 45 percent of hysterectomy cases without oophorectomy do not go on to wish they had taken their ovaries out when they had the chance. In fact, for these women, whether pre-menopausal or post-menopausal, remaining ovaries can act as hormonal shields from depression, hip fractures, strokes, and heart disease, which killed over 316,000 U.S. women in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study argues that for otherwise healthy woman without breast or ovarian cancer, elective removal of the ovaries may do more harm than good. This is important information given that other similar studies have found elective oophorectomy to be on the rise in U.S. women.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh McGee Women's Hospital recently found that while age-adjusted ratios for elective oophorectomy with hysterectomy have decreased since 1974, the actual proportion of said oophorectomies has done just the opposite. National rates are trending upward in recent years, despite solid research that shows estrogen's heart and bone-protecting benefits.