Sexual Health Q&A

Why might a woman have her ovaries removed?

A woman’s ovaries play an important role in her sexual health. They produce the hormone estrogen, which helps regulate the menstrual cycle. It also helps a woman’s body prepare for sex.

Sometimes, one or both ovaries need to be removed because of a medical condition, such as:

Ovarian cancer. Cancer cells may be removed through surgery.

Cysts. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on one or both ovaries. They are usually not cancerous, but they can be painful. They may also rupture.

Endometriosis. This condition causes uterine tissue to grow outside of the uterus. Tissue might be found on several areas of the pelvis, including the ovaries.

Ovarian torsion. Sometimes, an ovary can become twisted. (This can be a complication or ovarian cysts.) When this happens, the blood supply to the ovary is blocked.

Tubo-ovarian abscess. If a woman has an infection in one of her fallopian tubes (the tubes that connect the ovaries and the uterus), a sac of pus called a tubo-ovarian abscess might develop.

The surgical procedure to remove one or both ovaries is called a oophorectomy. If only one ovary is removed, the term unilateral oophorectomy is used. If both ovaries are removed, it is called a bilateral oophorectomy.

Sometimes, the fallopian tubes are removed along with the ovaries. In this case, the procedure is called a salpingo-oophorectomy.

Surgery might be conducted as a preventative measure as well. Some women have a genetic mutation that raises their risk for ovarian or breast cancer. For this reason, they may choose to have risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy.