What are the risks of a hysterectomy for ovarian cancer?

Risks of a hysterectomy for ovarian cancer include risks related to the cancer, as well as risks related to having a hysterectomy for any reason. A hysterectomy is surgery to remove the uterus.

If ovarian cancer requires removal of the uterus, it will almost certainly require removal of the ovaries; removal of these organs will cause infertility. A hysterectomy for ovarian cancer usually serves two major purposes. It helps a medical team stage the cancer, as the tissue that is removed can be examined in the laboratory for signs of the cancer. The hysterectomy is also a way for a surgeon to remove as much of the cancer as possible through a process called "debulking." The goal of debulking is to leave behind no tumors larger than 1 cm, according to the American Cancer Society. Women whose tumors have been optimally "debulked" have a better prognosis than women who have larger masses left behind inside of them. In some cases, this debulking process requires removing part of the colon and/or the bladder, which can require the use of catheters for urinating and a colostomy for defecating. These conditions can be reversible.

It is possible that part of the liver, stomach and pancreas may need to be removed, as well as the spleen and the gallbladder. In addition to these potential problems, a hysterectomy carries certain risks, regardless of why the surgery is being performed. Those risks include:
  • injury to the bladder or ureter
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • decreased interest in sex
  • increased risk of heart disease (from removal of the ovaries)
  • blood clots, which may be fatal if they travel to the lungs
  • infection
  • damage to other internal organs

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.