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ovarian cancer surgery

A unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is the surgical removal of one ovary and one fallopian tube, both of which are located on the same side of the body and share a common blood supply (in contrast, a bilateral procedure involves the removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes). A unilateral procedure may be recommended to address ovarian cancer, as well as ovarian cysts, benign tumors and abscesses that do not respond to nonsurgical treatment or the results of an ectopic pregnancy. When possible, a unilateral approach can be used to preserve ovarian function, which can be important for women of childbearing age.

A salpingo-oophorectomy is also sometimes recommended for breast cancer patients if a physician determines that a reduction in the amount of hormones produced by the ovaries (estrogens) may slow the growth of the cancer. Furthermore, in addition to treating existing ovarian cancer, the procedure may be used prophylactically to remove a healthy ovary as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of breast or ovarian cancer in a high-risk woman.

There are several techniques that a surgeon can use to perform a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, including:

  • Laparoscopy – A surgeon injects a carbon dioxide gas into the abdominal cavity to enhance visibility and accessibility. The surgeon then makes a few tiny incisions and inserts a slender, lighted laparoscope and other specialized instruments to locate and remove the ovary and fallopian tube.
  • Minilaparotomy – A surgeon creates an incision that measures approximately 2 inches in the lower abdomen, which provides direct access for the removal of the ovary and fallopian tube.
  • Laparotomy – A surgeon makes a horizontal or vertical incision spanning the lower abdomen to remove a large ovarian cyst or tumor, widespread scar tissue from prior surgeries or an ovary and fallopian tube that must remain intact.
  • Colpotomy – A surgeon removes the ovary and fallopian tube through a surgical incision in the vagina.

A decision regarding the most appropriate approach for a particular patient will depend on several factors, including her cancer stage, age, weight, previous lower abdominal surgeries, heart and lung conditions and other considerations. To ensure the most effective treatment, it’s always advisable for a patient to consult with an experienced gynecologic oncologist and also to seek one or more additional opinions before deciding on a plan.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we take a multispecialty approach to cancer treatment. Before recommending a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy or other form of ovarian cancer surgery, our talented tumor board thoroughly reviews all aspects of the patient’s case. Each patient’s treatment plan is developed based on input from this group of wide-ranging specialists, which includes gynecologic oncologists, pathologists, plastic surgeons, radiologists, radiation oncologists, reproductive endocrinologists and supportive care providers. As such, we provide each patient with the benefit of multiple expert opinions, all in a single location.

Medically reviewed by Jing-Yi Chern, MD, ScM, gynecologic oncologist

To learn more about a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and other ovarian cancer treatment options available at Moffitt’s gynecological clinic, call 1-888-663-3488 or schedule an appointment online. We do not require referrals. Virtual visits may also be available, depending on the type of appointment.


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Ovarian Cancer