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A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing a woman’s uterus and some surrounding organs and tissues, which may include one or both of her ovaries. While having a hysterectomy can reduce a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer, it does not eliminate her risk entirely - even if both of her ovaries are removed.

Hysterectomies and ovarian cancer risk

The risk of ovarian cancer after a hysterectomy can be influenced by many factors, including the type of hysterectomy performed:

  • A partial or total hysterectomy — A partial hysterectomy involves removing a woman’s uterus; a total hysterectomy involves removing a woman’s uterus and cervix. After either procedure, the woman’s ovaries remain intact, which means it is still possible for her to develop ovarian cancer.
  • A total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy — This comprehensive procedure involves removing a woman’s uterus and cervix, along with both of her ovaries and fallopian tubes. As a result, it is less likely for the woman to develop ovarian cancer, but it is still possible.

Primary peritoneal cancer

Whether or not a woman’s ovaries have been removed, an ovarian cancer-like malignancy can develop in her peritoneum. This moist, cellophane-like sheet of tissue covers and supports the abdominal organs, allowing them to glide smoothly against each other during movement. During embryonic development, a woman’s peritoneum, ovaries and fallopian tubes are formed from the same cells. Therefore, even after both of a woman’s ovaries are removed, it is still possible for her to develop cancer in the cells of her peritoneum. This type of cancer, which is known as primary peritoneal cancer, is very similar to ovarian cancer.

The importance of early detection

Currently, no ovarian cancer screening test has proven to be effective enough to justify its routine use in women at average risk. For this reason, it is especially important for women to learn about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as abdominal swelling and bloating, and to promptly discuss any unusual changes with a physician. Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer can lead to the best possible outcome and quality of life.

If you’d like to discuss your ovarian cancer risk or symptoms with a specialist in the gynecological clinic at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.