How can surgery cause menopause?

Abrupt menopause comes about when any surgery is performed that involves removing both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy). In some cases, women will have only their ovaries removed, whereas in others, they are removed as part of a larger abdominal procedure like a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), or surgery for bladder, colon or rectal cancer.

A hysterectomy is generally the surgical removal of only the uterus, but it can include the removal of the ovaries, too. If you have a hysterectomy without the removal of your ovaries, you most likely will not go into menopause. However, the removal of the uterus can cause menopause to occur several years sooner than it may have normally occurred.

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Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

The surgical removal of ovaries may be necessary if a woman has cervical or ovarian cancers, or if she is at an increased risk for some cancers. If a woman carries the BRCA gene, she is at increased risk for reproductive cancers, and the removal is a form of prevention. Also, sometimes surgery is necessary in case of severe endometriosis, fibroids or infection.

Some cancer surgeries can cause abrupt menopause. Most likely surgeries include treatment of colon or rectal cancers. Surgery to treat colon or rectal cancer is called an abdominal resection. This usually involves the removal of the lower colon and rectum. Sometimes this surgery can remove the uterus and ovaries. If cervical cancer treatment has not been successful with surgery or radiation, sometimes a total pelvic exenteration is performed. This includes the surgical removal of most of the pelvic organs.

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