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Ovarian Cancer Risk after a Hysterectomy

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Ovarian Cancer Risk  After Hysterectomy Anna Hamilton/StockSnap

Linsey Joyce is a mother and wife who found out she had ovarian cancer, two years after both her ovaries were removed, according to an article in the Daily Mail.

Joyce’s womb and ovaries were removed due to the discovery by doctors of cancerous cells in those particular areas.

After experiencing stomach pains and needing to use the restroom more frequently than usual, she went to her doctor. It wasn’t until she underwent a biopsy that doctors found cancerous cells where her ovaries had been. The cells had spread to her stomach lining.

So, the million dollar question is: How can a woman have ovarian cancer after she's had her ovaries removed?

Below are some facts explaining the complexity of the relationship between ovarian cancer and hysterectomy.

A hysterectomy, as defined by WebMD, is the removal of either the entire uterus or parts of the uterus. Usually, ovarian cancers start in cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary. Cancer can develop inside the egg-producing and/or hormone-producing cells, as well.

What are the differences between a partial hysterectomy and a total hysterectomy? A partial hysterectomy removes just the uterus, whereas a total hysterectomy removes the uterus and cervix. Both procedures leave your ovaries intact, which means you are still at risk of developing ovarian cancer.

A total hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy removes the cervix, uterus, both ovaries and the fallopian tubes.

While having this procedure makes ovarian cancer less likely to occur, it does not remove the risk entirely. There is a small risk of primary peritoneal cancer, which develops in the thin layer of tissue lining the abdomen, uterus, bladder and rectum.

Ovarian cells can migrate to the peritoneal area (a thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen) between the vagina and anus, during each menstrual cycle before the ovaries are removed.

If these cells have already spread prior to the hysterectomy, they can become cancerous later on. Since the peritoneum and ovaries arise from the same tissues when an embryo develops, the cancer can arise from the cells that line the abdominal cavity.

The crux of the issue is, you can still get ovarian cancer without ovaries, but your risk is significantly lower. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you are a carrier for the gene mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2, removing your ovaries can reduce your risk of cancer by 80-90 percent.

Women who carry these genes are also at an increased risk for breast cancer, so removing their ovaries can also lower their risk of hormone-positive breast cancers.


Daily Mail. Mother who had both her ovaries removed two years ago is horrified to discover she has ovarian cancer. September 1 2015.

Healthline. Ovarian cancer after hysterectomy: is it possible?. September 1 2015.

WebMD. Women’s health hysterectomy. September 1 2015.

Reviewed September 2, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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