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Ovarian Ablation as Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer

If you have not gone through menopause, your ovaries are your main source of estrogen. Estrogen causes some breast cancers to grow, and treatment strategies for these cancers may include stopping the ovaries from making estrogen. This is called ovarian ablation or ovarian suppression. It can be done in two ways. 

The ovaries may be taken out by surgery. This surgery is called oophorectomy or ovariectomy. You will get general anesthesia before the surgery so that you’ll be in a deep sleep and won’t feel anything. The surgeon may do open surgery, which means you’ll have a large incision (cut). Or you may be able to have laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, surgery, which means smaller incisions. The side effects of surgery and your recovery time depend on which procedure you have done.

Another way to stop the ovaries from making estrogen is to use radiation to inactivate them.

What to expect after ovarian ablation

Both surgery and radiation cause premature menopause right away. The side effects are often worse than those caused by natural menopause. This means you'll stop having periods, and you may have these side effects:

  • Change in sex drive

  • Hot flashes

  • Night sweats

  • Vaginal dryness 

  • Mood swings 

  • Other symptoms of menopause, including an increased risk for cardiovascular disease  

  • Loss of bone mass, which puts you at increased risk for osteoporosis 

Talk with your health care team about things you can do to manage these side effects. 

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