Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Preventing Cancer: Oophorectomy

Hi all, today's blog post will follow on from yesterdays and focus on the news that Angelina Jolie has had a preventative double mastectomy after discovering she has the BRCA1 gene mutation, giving her an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. The BRCA gene mutations also give you an increased risk of ovarian cancer and I have read today that Angelina is also going to have her ovaries removed to prevent her being diagnosed with this cancer type too. I hope you find this post informative.
To read about the BRCA gene mutations please click:
To read about cancer and fertility please click:
What is an Oophorectomy?
An oophorectomy is the surgical removal of your ovaries. Your ovaries are almond shaped organs which sit on either side of the uterus. They contain eggs and secrete hormones that control your reproductive cycle. Removal of your ovaries will reduce the amount of oestrogen and progesterone in your body and this can halt cancers that require these hormones to grow.
Ladies with the BRCA mutation may also have their fallopian tubes removed and this is known as a salpingo-oophorectomy.

Who Can Have a Preventative Oophorectomy?
This surgery is normally reserved for women with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, usually due to a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. Women aged over thirty five that have already had their children and are found to be at high risk of developing ovarian cancer are usually offered this surgery but other woman also qualify, including those with a strong family history of ovarian cancer but do not carry the gene mutation.

How does it Reduce your Cancer Risk?
A preventative oophorectomy can decrease your risk of breast and ovarian cancer if you have a BRCA mutation:
*Your breast cancer risk is reduced by about 50% if you are pre menopausal. For example a woman with a 60% chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer would see her chances decrease to 30% with an oophorectomy.
*Your ovarian cancer risk would decrease by 80-90%. For example a woman with a 30% chance of developing ovarian cancer would see her chances decrease to 6%.

These figures do depend on individuals though as your risk can depend on many factors including lifestyle and family history. Some women may find that an oophorectomy reduces their risk significantly whilst others may find the surgery risks and side effects may not be worth the reduced risk of cancer.

Risks Involved:
An oophorectomy is a safe procedure with minimal complications, although the risks depend on how the procedure is performed. Potential risks could include damage to internal organs and intestinal blockage.

Oophorectomy causes early menopause in women that have not yet reached the menopause and this can cause:
*Osteoporosis – the amount of oestrogen being produced is reduced and this may increase your chance of breaking bones as they become thinner.
*Increased Risk of Heart Disease – Your risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease may increase if you have your ovaries removed.
*Menopausal Side Effects – Hot flushes, vaginal dryness, sexual problems and sleep disturbance are all common side effects of menopause.
*You May Still Be At Risk – This surgery does not completely eradicate your risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer as a type of cancer that mimics ovarian cancer (primary peritoneal cancer) can develop. However the risk of developing this cancer type is low, much much lower then the risk of ovarian cancer if you keep your ovaries.
*Fertility – Removing your ovaries will obviously affect your fertility so if you have not started or completed your family yet it may be worth looking into options including egg/embryo freezing before going ahead with the surgery.

I hope you have found this post informative, please do visit your GP if you are worried about anything you have read here today. For more information please visit

Sending lots of love to anyone known to carry a gene mutation and anyone that has undergone this procedure to try and prevent themselves being diagnosed with cancer.


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