Breast Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

12. What is a prophylactic oophorectomy?

Premenopausal women who have a high risk of breast cancer due to certain changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may choose to have a prophylactic oophorectomy (the removal of both ovaries when there are no signs of cancer). This decreases the amount of estrogen made by the body and lowers the risk of breast cancer. Prophylactic oophorectomy also lowers the risk of breast cancer in normal premenopausal women and in women with an increased risk of breast cancer due to radiation to the chest.

However, it is very important to have a cancer risk assessment and counseling before making this decision. The sudden drop in estrogen levels may cause the symptoms of menopause to begin. These include hot flashes, trouble sleeping, anxiety, and depression. Long-term effects include decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness, and decreased bone density.

Learn more about surgeries to reduce the risk of breast cancer.