Monday, July 20, 2015

Out with the Ovaries

 Updated 7/21/15
The other day there was a discussion in a Facebook group I belong to about what happens when a women has her ovaries removed ( oopherectomy) prophylactically.  I thought to myself - prophylactically or due to surgery / chemotherapy -  the effects are the same.

I know which side effects I experienced when I  had my ovaries (along with other organs) removed due to ovarian cancer. Even if your ovaries are not surgically removed, they may be damaged due to chemotherapy which can cause menopause and infertility. 

What can happen? Symptoms you may experience when your ovaries are removed include:
  • hot flashes / night sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • decreased sex drive
  • skin changes
  • sleep disruptions
  • urinary symptoms
  • bone loss (osteopenia/ ) osteoporosis
  • fatigue
  • weight gain 
  • trouble focusing
  • increased risk for heart disease

So how do we deal with these side effects?

There are various ways to help with the symptoms of menopause including hormonal therapies, non-hormonal therapies, complimentary therapies and bioidentical hormones (FDA statement on bio-identicals) .  Be sure to ask your doctor which therapy is acceptable for you to use if you are in treatment or at risk for breast cancer / ovarian cancer.

Some helpful resources include:

This American Cancer Society article on menopause and cancer risk is a good place to turn for information on options you can talk to your doctor about. ( )

The NCI has a brochure Health Care Maintenance for Women Undergoing Risk-Reducing Ovarian Surgery ( GOG 0199) as well as  a number of online resources on dealing with the side effects of premature menopause. The resources may be found at

You may also find the Menopause Guidebook from the the North American Menopause Society) helpful. Download it at

Another good source of information is the US National Library of Medicine's Medline Plus site on Menopause .

Many of the pre-menopausal women diagnosed with ovarian cancer I have spoken to have gotten limited information on dealing with the side effects of menopause.  It is important that valuable resources like those listed above are part of the conversation that women have with their health care provider when their ovaries are removed prohylactically or due to a cancer diagnosis.

Every Day is a Blessing!

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