Removed or Not Functioning Ovaries (Support)
Women are being forced to forfeit their womanhood just because of a vague risk. And, when their reproductive life comes to an end, they’re often not given the correct advice or access to effective, balanced treatment. There are hormonal changes that occur before, during and after menopause – your body stops gearing up for childrearing, but you also experience other changes like weight gain and loss of sexual desire. The negative aspects of menopause are simply not necessary anymore. With what science has revealed about the vital role of hormones and the intricate way they can be balanced, women don’t have to experience a shift from goddess to gargoyle.
EVERYTHING MUST GO
For years surgeons routinely removed ovaries ‘just in case’ in women over the age of 45 (after all, why do you want them anyway?) and in women who were deemed at risk of developing cancer. An oophorectomy, where your ovaries are removed, is often referred to as surgical menopause. Sometimes only one ovary is removed, at other times everything must go. And if your body’s not yet ready for menopause, this will push you into it. Early menopause is linked to increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Gynaecologic oncologist Dr Elizabeth Poynor quotes the following statistics in her article Hysterectomy Update: Think Twice About Those Ovaries – “Each year, 14,700 women die from ovarian cancer, but heart disease causes 327,000 deaths – more than 20 times the ovarian cancer death rate.”
There are various reasons why your doctor may recommend a hysterectomy (the ovaries don’t necessarily go in this procedure) – from cancer of the cervix or uterus, persistent bleeding or chronic pelvic pain to fibroids, endometriosis or a prolapsed uterus (which can be treated without surgical intervention). A hysterectomy cuts short your reproductive years, effectively launching you into early menopause, but sometimes it may seem like the only choice, especially if your doctor uses the risk of ovarian cancer as a persuasive mechanism – because he or she feels it’s the best option.
Other than caesarean delivery, hysterectomy is the most common surgery performed on women of childbearing age. Because of the possibility of reducing ovarian cancer, over 50% of women also elect to have an oophorectomy when they undergo a hysterectomy. According to the National Cancer Institute, US, the incidence of ovarian cancer is 0.0127%. The numbers just don’t add up to sensible decision-making.
It was just three years ago that an enormous groundbreaking study was published indicating that removing ovaries, without replacing estrogen, increases the risk of death from cancer, heart disease and stroke. One recent study suggests that it also puts you at a higher risk of developing dementia. The implications of an oophorectomy are dire and they are only now being fully realised, with doctors beginning to take notice by considering saving rather than destroying ovaries.
There’s been a lot in the press over the past few years about the increase in breast cancer risk for women on hormone replacement therapy – which is one of the primary treatments for the symptoms of menopause.
The 2011 International Menopause Society’s updated recommendations on postmenopausal hormone therapy and preventative strategies for midlife health say, “Other menopause-related complaints, such as joint and muscle pains, mood swings, sleep disturbances and sexual dysfunction (including reduced libido) may improve with HRT. The administration of individualised HRT may improve both sexuality and overall quality of life".
THE IMPORTANCE OF OVARIES
Your ovaries produce and release the sex hormones progesterone and estrogen. Estrogen is instrumental in fat distribution, breast and reproductive organ development. Both types of hormones are needed to prepare the uterus for menstruation. Your ovaries provide 50% of your circulating testosterone.
What most women don’t understand and what many doctors don’t reveal, is that testosterone has an incredibly important role to play in your body – one function is its role as a major building-block for estrogen. Commonly, postmenopausal women suffer from what’s known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which is characterised by a lack (or complete absence) of sexual desire or fantasies that can cause stress or relationship issues – testosterone treatment has an effective and positive effect on addressing this.
There’s no low dose pharmaceutical testosterone medication on the market for women and most doctors simply don’t test for those levels – they’re more concerned with estrogen alone.
INCREASED RISK OF OVARIAN CANCER
Caucasian women are at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer than any other race. Other possible factors that may increase risk include:
• Lactose: Studies have shown a link between lactose (from dairy) and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. However, please note that dairy is a good source of calcium for maximising bone mineral density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis – so if you reduce milk in your diet, ensure you’re supplementing to get enough calcium
• Fertility medication: Researchers have indicated that caution must be exhibited in terms of fertility medication
• Fatty acids: Studies have indicated an increased risk of ovarian cancer with excess consumption of trans fat (found in hard margarine and fried food – especially when oil is reused [like at fast-food joints])
• High GL: Diets high in glycaemic load may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, specifically if you’re overweight or obese.
If you’re faced with the possibility of a hysterectomy or oophorectomy – insist on knowing every detail so you can make an informed decision. And if you’ve undergone one, make an appointment with a health care professional who will consider all the hormones required for healthy balance. It’ll change your life.
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