Ovary removal may increase risk of dementia, other brain problems

Every day up to 2,000 women have hysterectomies. Many of these women also choose to have their ovaries taken out at the same time to remove their risk of ovarian cancer. But for younger women who are not at high risk for ovarian cancer, doctors are saying, “not so fast.”

Natasha Matt-Hensrud is married, has three children, is a nurse, an still fits in some time for home-cooked meals.

So when symptoms of heavy bleeding slowed her down, she went to the Mayo Clinic where her gynecologist made the diagnosis.

“Fibroids in the uterus.”

The bleeding needed to be treated, so Natasha considered all the options -- one of them being a hysterectomy.

She initially planned to have her ovaries removed at the same time, but her doctor let her know that the decision isn’t that simple.

Many women also have their ovaries removed, because it cuts their risk of ovarian cancer. But ovaries produce estrogen – a hormone with many known health benefits, including protecting against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Now, two Mayo Clinic studies show that estrogen may also protect a woman’s brain.

Dr. Walter Rocca says, “We discovered that if the ovaries were removed early in life, there was almost a doubling of the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia"

Matt-Hensrud says, “What was most right for me was to proceed with the hysterectomy, but at all costs conserve as much ovarian function as possible."

Doctors also say that if women do have their ovaries removed before menopause, they should consider hormone therapy to reduce the risk of neuralgic diseases.

For more information that may help you make a decision if you or someone you know is considering a hysterectomy, visit MayoClinic.org.


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