Hands off my Girlie Balls!

by Chloe Jeffreys · 98 comments

in Your Vagina and You

“Don’t you dare take out my ovaries! If I wake up without them, there will be hell to pay.”

These were the last words I uttered on March 28th before the anesthesiogist injected the quieting milk of amnesia (aka propofol for you Michael Jackson fans) into my IV, thus sending me off to dreamland and restoring peace to the operating room where I was about to undergo my hysterectomy-slash-vaginal vault reconstruction.

Surgical Pause, not Surgical Menopause

I don’t know if you know this or not, but the entire OR team, including the surgeon, is supposed to stop and perform a “time out” or “surgical pause” prior to beginning any surgical procedure on a you. This little step is supposed to occur while you are still conscious so you can participate in this preemptive measure that ensures you don’t go in for heart surgery and come out with a below-the-knee amputation.

Because I knew this surgical pause was coming, I anticipated the precious moment where’d I’d get to let everyone in the OR know that my ovaries were off limits, and that I was in no way consenting to their removal without my conscious approval.

Female Castration or Preventative Medicine? Should You Let Your Doctor Remove Your Healthy Ovaries?

While many surgeons continue to routinely encourage healthy women (I am not talking about breast cancer patients or women who carry BRCA1 or BRCA2) undergo prophylactic surgical removal of healthy ovaries during elective hysterectomies–78% of women between the ages of 45 and 64 undergoing routine hysterectomy also have their healthy ovaries removed— the decision whether or not to keep your ovaries requires serious consideration, and very likely a second opinion.

This is one of those times where you do not want to just go along with whatever your surgeon says no matter how much you trust him, or like her. If your surgeon wants to remove your healthy ovaries SEEK A SECOND OPINION!

I know what you are thinking. Preventing cancer sounds good, right? And ovarian cancer is a serious disease that has no reliable screening test and few definitive symptoms. Furthermore, ovarian cancer has a high cure rate if caught early, but the sad truth is that it usually isn’t. So why bother getting a second opinion? Isn’t it better to get rid of them before there is a problem? Are ovaries worth keeping once child-bearing is over?

You’re Not Using Those Things Anymore

In the weeks just before my surgery it came up in conversation with a physician colleague that I was keeping my ovaries. His response?

“Why are you keeping them? You’re not using those things anymore!”

Knowing that this doctor is also done having children, I immediately shot back, “Are you going to get your balls cut off to prevent testicular cancer? You aren’t using them anymore.”

Hands off my Girlie Balls!

There is a very cavalier attitude in our culture in general, and by doctors in particular, towards women’s sexual organs. The thinking seems to be that as long as they don’t close up the hole we’re good to go, right? Wrong. A woman’s sexuality is a lot more complex than just having a hole where the penis goes.

Why is this such a difficult concept for people? I am dead certain that there isn’t a man reading this who wouldn’t be pissed as hell if he went in for a vasectomy and woke up without his balls.

That’s exactly how I felt about the possibility of waking up without my ovaries.

Because, while physicians are focusing on the ovaries’ declining production of estrogen needed for egg production, what they should be paying attention to is testosterone, which the ovaries continue to produce long after menopause. Testosterone for women, just like for men, is the hormone that fuels our sex drive.

But it isn’t just sex. Okay, for me it’s mostly sex, but sex isn’t everything.

Women Who Keep Their Ovaries Live Longer

Despite my last-minute operating room proclamation, I was not really THAT concerned my surgeon would intentionally, or inadvertently, remove my healthy ovaries. He was already up on the current medical literature which now recommends ovarian conservation whenever possible. He’s the one who first said to me, “You will keep your ovaries.” He is the one who told me that, ovarian cancer be damned (studies indicate that only 0.1% to 0.75% of women who retain their ovaries at the time of hysterectomy develop ovarian cancer), healthy women who keep their ovaries live longer than women who have their healthy ovaries prophylactically removed.

Menopausal Ovaries

Our menopausal ovaries might not be dropping eggs anymore, but they are still producing important hormones for the health of our hearts, our brains, our bones, and, yes, our libidos, well into our 60s, and maybe beyond.

Consider this: While you may be eliminating your risk of ovarian cancer, removing your healthy ovaries increases your risk of all other cancers, not to mention heart disease. And we need to mention heart disease. Because as frightening as ovarian cancer is, we need to recognize that the risks are very low compared to our very real risks of heart disease (15,000 deaths per year from ovarian cancer versus 350,000 deaths from heart disease.)

Sorry. There Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Answer

Going into surgery, I knew that my major genetic risks are colorectal cancer and osteoporosis (which I already have). Conservation of my ovaries (and HRT in my future) is my best bet in preventing and treating these diseases. So, for me, the decision was simple, my ovaries stay.

What does this mean for you? This means that you have to weigh your particular risks before making a decision for yourself. This means you need to do research for yourself. And it could mean that you need to seek a second opinion, or even a third, if your surgeon insists on removing your healthy ovaries.

The fact that there isn’t a definitive answer for all women trying to decide whether or not to undergo routine prophylactic removal of healthy ovaries at the time of hysterectomy is frustrating for many women. And it is leaving doctors out there acting like the Lone Ranger recommending surgeries that very well might not be in your best interest. In the case of your ovaries, let the patient beware!

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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen Zaghiyan January 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Hi Chloe,
That’s right that if any women has reproductive problem then doctors immediately refer surgery. There must be some other option rather than surgery. That’s all know that after ovaries removal you can’t produce egg only some healthy hormones can produce for heart, brains and other main parts of your body. So better is that before surgery you have to research yourself and find a second opinion.

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mary callie May 16, 2016 at 10:40 am

Hi. Have any women here had an oophorectomy with a hysterectomy and gone on hormone replacement therapy and had slight to no symptoms?

Doc is happy to give me HRT after oophorectomy, but I am not sure I want to remove my ovaries for prophylactic reasons (I have Lynch Syndrome).

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Oz34 November 27, 2015 at 10:21 am

Chloe, it is time to get the word out that too many doctors immediately think of surgery if a woman has reproductive problems. Why is a hysterectomy called a “gold standard”? Do doctors think women just need to hear something is shiny rather than explain the facts? No surgery should be called a gold standard. Every surgery is serious and a doctor should first consider alternatives and minimal procedures.

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Chloe Jeffreys November 27, 2015 at 11:58 am

You are so right. Surgery should be the last resort after everything else, including lifestyle changes and conservative treatments have been pursued. There are some good studies out there than vaginal estrogen and physical therapy can cure many cases of urinary stress incontinence, but how many doctors are prescribing those treatments? I know for a fact that I suffered for two decades and not only did no doctor ever recommend these treatments, but no doctor, including the female ones I had, ever take my problems seriously! Women are getting terrible healthcare when it comes to these issues. It’s almost criminal. It’s certainly negligent.

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sofie October 5, 2015 at 7:53 pm

I have scheduled hysterectomy in couple months and was seriously thinking about removing my ovaries since my aunt has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and they removed everything (she is in mid 60-tis) I am 44 year old and due to issues with bleeding Hysterectomy is the only option. Ablation was out of option due to my tilted uterus and biopsy couldn’t be preformed. Anyway, after reading so many articles and finaly reading your blog I will definetely keep my ovarie. My only concern was my aunt and her cancer but if I he healthy ovaries I should keep them. It seems that more problems occurs when removed unless its really necessary health wise. I consulted with 2 obgyn so far and they both said its not bad to consider removal since my aunt has ovarian cancer but its up to me to decide and they advised me about hormon replacement therapy if ovaries removed. Thank you so much for helpful info! It definetely helped me decide to keep my ovaries ?

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Oz34 November 27, 2015 at 10:16 am

sofie I hope you have good medical care. A couple of things to consider before your surgery. 1. There is help for excessive bleeding. It is a medication called Lysteda and it works very well. 2. I have a slight prolapse and had no problem with uterine biopsy – outside of it being unpleasant. 3. Does ovarian cancer run in your family? If only your aunt has it, probably not. Best wishes to you both. In my case I am cancer free and planning to keep all my organs.

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Austin Bariatric July 3, 2015 at 12:04 am

I got a friend who got no choice but to get rid of her ovaries. She has cyst in both sides, and the best thing her doctor recommended was to remove them. She was so frustrated and very sad. Just imagine, you will lose the chance to carry a child someday. And you might end up living a life alone. But supports from her family and friends made her decide to go for the surgery.
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Mary May 2, 2015 at 7:06 am

I was recently operated on for a large tumor and a cyst, one on each ovary. I woke up with no ovaries. I am very concerned about this and would really appreciate any recommended websites,etc, for useful info on how to proceed, other than getting my hormones tested. For those of us who have no ovaries, your warning is too late and some useful and timely advice would be much appreciated here, esp. after such dire info…. I have found potential solutions hard to find online. Thanks!

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Chloe Jeffreys May 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Oh Mary, I’m so sorry. I do fear that my article is upsetting for those who have already had their ovaries removed. There is no doubt that you need hormone replacement if you are a good candidate. You need to seek out a physician who takes your health and sexual concerns seriously. Sudden menopause is no light matter. You have a right to have some concerns for your sex life and your future health. Did your doctor tell you beforehand that ovary removal might be necessary? Did your physician treat this outcome with seriousness? Or did he/she dismiss your concerns by telling you “you don’t need them anymore”? If your doctor dismissed your concerns you need a new doctor ASAP! No well-informed doctor today takes ovary removal lightly. Let me know if you need help finding a physician if you live in the US.

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Mary May 10, 2015 at 6:03 am

Thank you,Chloe.

I live in S America, and no nothing was discussed; I had a large ovarian tumor and a cyst, one one each ovary, and they took them both. I am 57. I have looked on the internet and have found almost too much info, but do plan to look for an understanding and competent doctor, as soon as we move to another country in a week or two.

I think it would be helpful to add a few recommended links here for women who already have had their ovaries removed, so as to give them some guidance and hope as well as info.

All the best,
Mary

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Emilie February 4, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Hi there. I’m 36 and with a 5cm dermoid on each ovary, the four opinions I’ve gotten are my ovaries can’t be saved. Having a really hard time with this as I feel absolutely no pain and have regular cycles which I told the last doctor I like as they remind me of my fertility. I want to go into menopause naturally… Anyone have success with dermoid removal and salvaging the ovary? Why all surgeons want to do a hysterectomy is beyond me as there’s nothing wrong with my uterus or cervix or tubes!

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Chloe Jeffreys February 8, 2015 at 1:04 pm

I don’t have enough medical knowledge about this to give you advice. Four opinions seems like you’ve really done your research. If you need this surgery then choose the doctor who seems to most understand hormone replacement therapy and takes your sexual life into consideration. 36 is so young to lose your ovaries. Are they saying you need this surgery right now, or that you will eventually need this surgery? If your health is stable and they are causing you no risk of future harm then maybe you can delay your surgery for a time until you get either another opinion you can live with, or you can wrap your mind around losing your ovaries. Good luck! Let me know what happens.

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holly January 19, 2015 at 10:23 am

my sister had breast cancer about 6 yrs ago double mastectomy chemo no more breast cancer!!! now at 44 breast dr is saying ovaries should come out she is asking my advise i found you so im asking your advise our mother died at 32 from breast cancer and grandmother at 72

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Deirdre December 12, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I’ve spent every day of the last year wishing I’d read something like this before my surgery in Jan 2014. The doctor asked me if I also wanted my ovaries out the way you might be asked whether you “want fries with that?” When I asked why I’d have them removed (the hysterectomy was only because I had fibroids that hurt, and was in my mid-forties), the doctor said the magic words, “it’d decrease your risk of cancer.” I’d had a partial nephrectomy after a cancer scare just six months before, so any mention of cancer after that was all it took. I woke up angry and confused – not because I said no to the oophorectomy, but because he hadn’t given me any kind of HRT yet. Almost immediately, I fell into the most horrible imaginable depression (think first ever calls to suicide hotline, in tears), my hair fell out, I gained ten pounds in water weight, and my face withered (that sounds dramatic, but I mean it – withered) and my hair started growing in gray. My body aches every day, and I have completely lost who I used to be in so many ways. Can’t remember my own name most days, sad, tired. And it’s completely, totally irreversible. Thank you so much for writing this informative post so that others might be spared ending up where I did.

Most importantly, you’re right. This is NOT the same thing as natural menopause. Not only do those of us who’ve had an oophorectomy go off of a hormonal cliff rather than the gradual slope, which is bad enough for most women, but you’re correct – our bodies do continue to produce hormones after menopause – unless we do this. And if anyone needs a gut check about whether it’s ok to assume we’re just “done with those,” I’ve made the same analogy about castration. Still ok? I thought not. Not for me, either. Women’s health – medieval in this way. We should not be ALLOWED to make this bad decision unless our health is at serious risk. Advice has to change. The last year of my life has been unimaginably hard, and I have no idea when or how this hell ends. Anyway – thank you.

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Tracy Young August 2, 2014 at 11:49 am

I want you to know, this article was the last thing I read before turning out the light the night before my scheduled hysterectomy. I had already decided the ovaries were staying but I drew strength from your words since I knew I had to face my doc first thing in the morning and change the paperwork in the 11th hour. Since he already considered them “dead”, I thought I might get a little opposition.
He was more respectful than I anticipated and we made the changes while I was getting ready to go under. So don’t ever think its too late to have your voice heard! I am so happy with my decision even though I’m 53 and essentially into menopause already.
What I’ve learned through this process (and through my breast cancer treatment 8 years ago) there is no ONE answer for everyone. Read, talk, ask and reflect until you come to the right answer for YOU. Thank you, Chloe, for your wise (and funny) words.

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Tracy Young August 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Oh, and I’ve stolen your fabulous new terminology for ovaries…”girlie balls!” Brilliant!!

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Chloe Jeffreys August 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

I’m glad my post helped you talk more clearly with your physician. The tide is turning and many doctors are seeing that routine removal of healthy ovaries, even after menopause, is not without risks. Loss of libido and sexual respnosiveness is not a small thing for many women. Nor for the men who love them. Sadly, I think the medical community has long regarding female sexuality as us being nothing more than a hole where men can put their penis. If the hole works then we’re fine, right? Not so right.

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Angela Miller July 29, 2014 at 6:55 am

I so wish that I would have read this prior to my doctor taking my ovaries. He lied to me and misinformed me and removed them the same time he took delivered my daughter. I almost died and at no time did he tell me it was life threatening. I later realized I contracted MERSA while at the hospital and it left my left arm with lymphedema. I now have osteoporosis and osteoarthritis starting. My discs herniated in my back and fell on top of each other, landing in the nerve root of the spine. I have to take class two narcotics and can no longer work.
He also blocked me from getting a second opinion. I needed a referral and he refused to give me one saying it would be a piece of cake and I didn’t want any more kids so this was best and it would be just like regular menopause. I pray his balls fall off for what he has cost me.
I now live on disability from work until my social security disability comes through. No attorney will take my case because they say menopause is normal and in a few years I will be good as new but I won’t be. The timing
of when he did this to me is what ruined my health.
Angela Miller

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Chloe Jeffreys July 29, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Angela, I am so very sorry! Your story is not the only one like it. It’s not even that rare. This needs to stop, which is why I wrote this piece. Doctors have got to stop treating our ovaries like they are expendable organs. They are not!!!

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Wendy June 2, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I am 44 years old and watched my 76 year old mother battle and die from ovarian cancer for 2 years. “Lucky Me” has been crowned with a positive BRCA mutation putting me high risk for ovarian cancer…so for the past 3 years, I have been getting yearly ultrasounds and mammograms to keep tabs on myself. Seeing the struggle my mom went through was painful and she didn’t want me to suffer through cancer like she did, but I am still hesitating to go thru with the surgery to remove my ovaries. I mean, once you are predisposed to cancer, won’t it manifest itself in some way? I feel like this… if I bring trauma to the area it will awaken a sleeping giant. Just my thoughts.
I am not hearing positive feedback from women who have opted in for their ovary removal. I am living a healthy lifestyle with supplements and antioxidant rich foods. I want to enjoy my life…especially my libido and intimacy that I share with my husband. I am passed having children, but I want to enjoy my life. I have been researching the benefits of cannibis oil and hope that I can get a doctor to prescribe it to me as alternative therapy. I feel like that would be a better option than to take such a drastic surgery. I have already gone to 2 gyn’s. My 1st one was my mother’s doctor and he was very persistant in telling me that I couldn’t wait another year to have them removed. The 2nd doctor was my mom’s gyn oncologist…still, no mention on the big side effects that I could experience after I remove the ovaries. Anyway, I have to find a 3rd doctor who will listen to me and advise alternative medicine. Do you have any recommendations or articles that could back up my theory on cannibis oil?

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Chloe Jeffreys June 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

I don’t know anything about cannabis oil and ovarian cancer. I do know that cannabis has been linked to increasing female libido. There’s some good studies out there about that.

Honestly, not having faced your situation, I cannot tell you what I would do if I were in your shoes. Sex plays a very big part in my life and my happiness, but would I rather be dead? I can’t say that.

Here’s a study that does seem to indicate that women with ovarian removal due to BRCA can safely take hormone replacement therapy: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110601152101.htm
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Loretta May 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Keep shouting about this Chloe! Reading this article brings sadness to me because it is too late for me. I had enlarged uterus with endometriosis. The OB/Gyn wanted to go in and remove all at once, regardless. With great concern I contacted another doctor with no help so I, stupidly, stopped there and gave in. Upon getting my removed organ “autopsy” report found I had perfectly good ovaries and cervix removed. Due to more limited feelings in the intimate climax area and my constant fights with doctors to allow me to have my HRT in a higher normal range than the low one they insist on keeping them, seeing this and the bad decision I made makes me want to cry!

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Chloe Jeffreys May 21, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Loretta, I am so sorry! Your story is the reason I wrote this post. Many doctors just don’t think this one through. They figure if your vagina is there then you can have sex. But for many women it isn’t the same after the ovaries are gone. No doctor would flippantly remove a man’s balls!

Please keep being your own advocate. I’m afraid no one else will. God bless.

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Lora May 17, 2014 at 6:53 am

I was wondering if you know anything about the latest procedure in keeping your ovaries but removing your fallopian tubes during a hysterectomy? They’re saying studies show that the cancer usually starts in the tubes so removing them is a good idea. I’m about to finally bite the bullet after 3 agonizing years of dangerous hemoglobin levels, hemorrhaging, and general feeling of sickness due to large fibroids. I am 53 and keep putting it off but can barely function anymore. I feel very at peace with my decision and have a great doctor but she suggested removing my fallopian tubes. Any thoughts?? I also have high estrogen so would keeping my ovaries still cause this high production?
Thanks

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Chloe Jeffreys May 17, 2014 at 9:04 am

Hi Lora, thanks for asking. I looked up some information about what you are asking and found this article on cancer.org: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/expertvoices/post/2012/08/28/can-removing-fallopian-tubes-prevent-cancer-.aspx

The ovaries are where the estrogen is made, so keeping them means keeping your estrogen factories. BUT how blood is supplied to the ovaries varies from woman to woman. Studies indicate that up to 50% of women undergo spontaneous menopause after hysterectomy even if they are keeping their ovaries. But that doesn’t mean you ovaries don’t continue to produce small amounts of hormones for several years afterwards. I can’t imagine why keeping your Fallopian tubes would be beneficial, and if these cancer issues are true then it seems like a good idea to go ahead and remove them. Let me know what you decide.

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Debs April 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I’d love to have kept my ovaries when I had my sub total hysterctomy, and I did actually request exactly that, with the surgeon, health care assistants, anaesthetists, doctors and nurses. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error in theatre, both, very healthy, ovaries were removed. Can I take legal redress? Am distraught, that after all my double checking of exactly what was going to happen, it has gone wrong. Thanks for any advice. This happened last Thursday, in a uk hospital and I was discharged this afternoon.

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Chloe Jeffreys April 7, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry. I don’t know anything about UK law and malpractice so I can’t help you with that. Please seek out hormone replacement options right away. Is there a medical association you can contact? Again I’m so sorry. Let me know what you find out.

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Carmen Garcia February 4, 2014 at 3:35 am

I just went to gyno yesterday. I’m on bio identical hormones therapy have been for over six years. I’m 55. I love and trust my gyno as he is the one who placed my on this hormone therapy which I love. Have been monitoring my cysts and uterus for several years as I suffer from cysts. I have the cysts right now which in a year all total six centimeters and my uterus has grown as well. He suggested laparoscopic surgery which would remove the ovaries and as well as top part of my uterus. He claims that since I’m on the bio identical hormone therapy, I would not have a problem and the risk of cancer or a huge surgery later would out weigh any need to keep the ovaries. Cysts on both ovaries has cause pain for years as well as discomfort while sex. After reading your blog I’m confused as to what to do. Should I keep the puppies or take them out since the bio identical serve me well. I trust my doctor and he had always gone beyond to help me. I suffer from cysts all over even in my breasts so he had always been very aware and caring as well as concerned to be sure that my cysts on the breast were not mis diagnosed as tumors which happened once by another doctor. Please advice thanks.

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Chloe Jeffreys June 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

Always get a second opinion before agreeing to any surgery. I’d find someone though who is experienced in menopause specifically. And I definitely recommend that every woman seek out a consultation with a urogynecologist before agreeing to any hysterectomy. The risks of vaginal prolapse are much greater after having your uterus removed. You definitely want an evaluation of your pelvic floor before agreeing to hysterectomy.
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scarlett powell July 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm

The doctor took my ovaries even though he promised me he wouldn’t do it unless there was a problem. Hetold me the surgery went well and I got to keep my ovaries but he lied. What should I do?

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Chloe Jeffreys July 29, 2013 at 11:29 am

If you no longer have your ovaries then you might want to seriously look at hormone replacement therapy. You can go to another doctor and have your hormone levels checked. That would be the first step.

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Robin Karr July 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

Beyond excellent article Chloe! I shared it on my Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/hysterectomyconsequences

On September 27 2007, I was knocked out against my will with Versed (also known as a date-rape drug which causes amnesia) after I refused to sign a surgical consent for removal of my uterus and ovaries. Long story short… I woke up in recovery two hours later and was told all of my (healthy) female organs had been removed – uterus, cervix, tubes and ovaries. I didn’t even know I’d been asleep. I cried out that I wanted to die. Curiously, this is noted in my medical record. Today, I’m completely disabled form that surgery. You can read more about what happened to me and view my consent and medical records here http://www.hysterectomyconsequences.com and here http://www.hormonesmatter.com/wide-awake-a-hysterectomy-story/

While my story may sound unusual or extreme, I’ve come to realize that this kind of thing happens far too often. Gynecologists ‘routinely’ perform unnecessary hysterectomies and castrations with either misinformed consent, uninformed consent or no consent at all. Unnecessary hysterectomy and castration is medical abuse at best. Unconsented hysterectomy and castration is criminal assault and battery. I’ve written about the ethics of female castration here http://www.hormonesmatter.com/ethics-of-total-hysterectomy-female-castration/

You have a genuinely unique writing style I admire greatly. Thank you so much for using your talent and site to start this very important discussion.

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Chloe Jeffreys July 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

Thank you, Robin. What a sad story. While I have never been part of any involuntary surgery like yours, I do know that many woman are not given all of the facts before consenting to total hysterectomy. They are reassured by their doctors that they will be happier without their ovaries, or that they aren’t using them anyway. Studies now show that we use our ovaries well into our 60s, if not longer. No organ is useless. We might be better off without it when balancing a risk/benefit ratio, but no healthy organ should be removed without serious consideration.

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Arlene May 16, 2013 at 6:23 am

I am so glad that I found this blog. I have been going through a lot! I am 48 years old and will be 49 in October. I have a very large cyst and a small cyst in my ovary. I have had no other health problems, I am not overweight and my menstruation has been normal. This cyst is so large that it as if I am 5 months pregnant. I am spotting but I am not in any pain. My doctor caught this but, I did not even know anything was wrong besides having urgency to go the bathroom more frequently. The gyn said remove your ovaries or you may be back here in another year having another surgery. I expressed concern about going into early menopause (My mother went through it at 58 years old) and she said the average age is 51 years old so it will happen soon anyway.
My uterus is tilted and up high like I am pregnant so she said that I will need to have a full abdominal surgery unless I can have robotics (I would have to see an oncologist for this) but, she is not sure if I can. I have no family history of any type of cancer (except for skin cancer). I had a biopsy done of the lining of my uterus and should get results tomorrow. She told me 99% chance it is not cancer but, that if it is no one survives and I will die. I was warned ahead of time that she had no bedside manner.
I told her my doctor did a blood test and that everything appears to be normal. She said that his test is useless and will not prove the absence of cancer. She did not have access to the test that he did or the results. She will have them when I go tomorrow for my appointment.
I have 4 children (ages 17,17,14 and 6) and a lot going on. I am very confused and stressed.

Thanks for reading and I would appreciate any insight!

Any help and insight would be greatly appreciated.

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Chloe Jeffreys June 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Dear Arlene,

I am so sorry, but I’ve been traveling a lot and missed your comment. I hope you have not had surgery yet. Please go to a Urogynecologist for a second opinion! I’m concerned. I’m going to email you just to check on you.

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kristen June 6, 2013 at 4:07 am

Sadly my mother just died a horrible, painful death from ovarian cancer so i wish she would have had hers removed.

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Chloe Jeffreys June 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I am so sorry for your loss. Definitely, regardless of statistics, when it happens to you it happens 100%. God bless.

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Janet Thompson May 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Hi, Well done for advising women to keep their Ovaries, but for women who have already made the mistake of having their ovaries removed, it is a very scary read. Do you have any help or advice to give us women as I am really regretting having my ovaries removed and even more scared by the things you have said?..

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Chloe Jeffreys May 10, 2013 at 11:12 am

Hey Janet! Sorry to take so long getting back to you. If you’ve already lost your ovaries then talk to your doctor about whether hormone replacement is right for you. There are numerous studies now that show that hormone replacement might be right for many women. I agree that after the fact it is much dicier. My own gynecologist had her ovaries out a year before the new recommendations that ovaries not be removed unless there is present disease or a true high-risk to the women of ovarian cancer (or hormone-feeding breast cancer). She regrets having hers removed and now does hormone replacement.

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DANECEIA April 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm

what if u keep getting cysts on your ovaries then what should you do?

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Lee March 26, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I love your blog, Chloe. I read, when I’m not working or taking care of kids or sleeping…which I’m not right now (duh) and came across this post that I hadn’t seen. I had my uterus removed because of cervical cancer along with my cervix and my doctor insisted on leaving the ovaries and it was the BEST year of my life. No periods and all the hormones? Fabulous! Of course, a year later my damn ovaries decided to act up and had to go all bad on me and had to be removed. So, now all my lady bits are gone, I am a eunuch and being in surgical menopause is the WORST!

Ladies…keep your ovaries!! Get your pap smears, even if you don’t have a uterus!! Take care of your bodies!!

That is all.

PS I love you and not in a lesbian kind of way.
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Connie O March 23, 2013 at 8:41 am

Hi Chole
I am facing a 2nd operation due to ovarian cysts…this time both ovaries are covered…both of my parents died from cancer…my aunts had ovarian cancer as did my paternal grandmother…my family wants me to have my ovaries removed…my ob/gyn said ultimately its ny decision he only recomends removal if there is cancer or strong family history…waiting for ca125 results… I want to keep them knowing the cysts will return. ..
Thoughts??

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Kim Gane November 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm

This is marvelous advice & I will be sharing. It isn’t the most doctorly path, but a history of colorectal cancer and (having) osteoporosis, not to mention other health issues, COMPELS me to share that those particular maladies (among many, many others), could be indicative of gluten intolerance and related malabsorption. The holistic world was talking about keeping your ovaries in the event of hysterectomy a long time ago and, much like finally becoming fans of probiotics, they are thankfully gradually coming on board. Hopefully they will in the case of identifying gluten intolerance and malabsorption to explain, oh I don’t know, your bones not having enough calcium because your intestines aren’t absorbing it, perhaps? I’m no doctor, but I healed myself of six years of infertility by changing my diet, after being one ovary down. I still have my other one and my son is 9 years old.

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Lady M February 15, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Hello Chloe,

I’m thrilled to have come across your blog. Here’s my story: I’ve been told by three doctor (and they all are quite fond of each other), that I need a hysterectomy. I am 46 years old, never had children (but always wanted them), was told two days ago that I may have lupus, and I’m scheduled for surgery next Monday Feb 23rd with a surgeon who wants to take my ovaries because my mother had breast cancer (she is 2 years cancer free). One doctor told me I might have endometriosis ( I had a D&C last year which removed polyps). I had another doctor tell me I had andeyomyosis. When I asked specifically how large my fibroids actually are, I’m given non-committal answers like, “Well they’re growing, they’re not big but there’s a lot of them, you have a bulky uterus, etc”. Two doctors said I couldn’t have a vaginal hysterectomy because I’d never given birth and the uterus was too big to pull through the canal. Now this doctor is telling me she’d like to do a vaginal. I get the feeling that my uterus is not that bad but hysterectomy is just more convenient for the doctor. When I’ve asked about other options, they say I’m not a good candidate. When I push for them to explain why, they focus on my age and how I don’t need those organs any more. HELP! Where to even begin.

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Lady M February 15, 2015 at 9:01 pm

P.S.

I forgot to mention, in 2014 I got a gastric-bypass (Roux-en Y). Several years later is when I started seeing some of consequences of malabsorption. I had to get Vitamin B shots, weekly iron drips because my hemoglobin levels were so low, etc. Initially they blamed the fibroids for my anemia, low Vitamin D, and B. I wonder if all along it was related somehow to malabsorption from the operation or developing lupus?

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Lady M February 15, 2015 at 9:13 pm

In short, I hope many of my symptoms will be relieved by having a hysterectomy (already scheduled for Feb 23, 2015) or myomectomy (which may be better). At this point, I don’t care if the symptoms were due to the fibroids, andeyomyosis, lupus, or gastric bypass surgery. I just want relief and, I want to make sure they don’t touch my ovaries!

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Ann Dunnewold October 24, 2012 at 7:35 am

Thanks for the honesty, and the laughs as well! I’ve been saying this for years, but now I can direct people here for the facts, heavily laced with humor to make the point.
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Annika October 23, 2012 at 9:58 pm

You crack me up! I should be doing some homework but knew I needed a little laugh. So, I said to myself, ‘let’s see what Chloe has to say today!’ And it’s so educational too – and I love your drawings.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I try to be informative and entertaining at the same time. You are a young thang, but you might have to deal with this issue in your future. I hope you will remember this article and inform yourself before you ever let anyone touch your girlie balls.

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Sharon Greenthal (@sharongreenthal) October 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

This is a very informative and important post, but my favorite thing about it is the term “girly balls.” I will never think of my ovaries in quite the same way again. I haven’t had to think about this issue to date, and hope I can avoid it in the future. Thanks for both your personal and professional insight.
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Thanks for sharing this out, Sharon. I think this is so important for women to hear about. My months on hystersisters taught me that women are not getting the information they need to make informed consent about something that will impact the rest of their lives. These decisions are tough, but no one can make them for you. Women expect doctors to know what is best, but sadly it doesn’t always work that way. Women have to educate themselves.

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Junebug October 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I agree! A few years ago my cousin was told she should have a total hysterectomy. I disagreed and she didn’t want to but felt pressured by her mom and husband. I, however, insisted she insist on keeping her ovaries. After the surgery she found out her uterus was not full of endometriosis but perfectly healthy. I was pissed and sick as hell for her. She was failed by so many people.
Right before this I had been advised to have my ovary removed because I had an abnormal cyst for two months. Since my sister died from ovarian cancer, I feel like my doctors always overreact. I said no and four months later was my doctor ever shocked to discover it was gone. I could have lost my ovary if I had blindly followed her advice. This topic freaks me out and really worries me. Thank you for sharing!

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Thank you for commenting and sharing this important issue. Women are being routinely castrated for no good reason and then being told that their subsequent health and sexual dysfunctions are all “in their heads!” Nobody would tell a castrated man that his sexual dysfunction was all in his head. Our ovaries are very important and should not be removed for anyone’s convenience, ever. I’m glad you stood your ground. I’m sure you will keep up on routine check-ups because of your sister’s history. Ovarian cancer is a serious illness and difficult to cure once out of its early stages. But ovarian cancer is not the most significant health risk women face and removing healthy ovaries should only be done after serious consideration and research.

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Lori Jo Vest October 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I had three doctors who wanted to give me a hysterectomy at 36 and none of them would guarantee they wouldn’t take my ovaries. I went with a myomectomy instead. So glad I didn’t let them take my organs. They’re mine and I’d like to keep them for as long as I can.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I made my surgeon swear that if he found cancer, or anything other reason he felt he needed to remove my ovaries, that he would wake me up to discuss it first. Under no circumstances was I to wake up without my ovaries unless it had to be done to save my immediate life (which I couldn’t imagine actually happening.)

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Karen October 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

This is really important info–not an issue for me, as my girlie bits gave up the ghost quite some time ago, but I know lots of women who probably aren’t aware. This is a repost/retweet, for sure!
Karen
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Thank you, Karen. I really do appreciate it. Women need to know they have options and what the consequences really are if they opt to have their healthy ovaries removed. I appreciate all shares of this to get this important message out there.

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Cathy October 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

Thank you for writing this. I had my hysterectomy a year ago. I was 35. My doctor said he only takes ovaries if they are so diseased they are beyond repair. He told me the risks of other problems through the years outweighed the slight possibility of ovarian problems later. Due to all of my problems down there in the years prior to surgery, part of me just wanted it all out and I was scared to start hurting again. In hindsight keeping my ovaries was the best decision. I cannot believe how much my health has improved.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Cathy, I am so glad that you had such a well-informed surgeon. Many women who reach the point of hysterectomy have suffered as you have for years and just want it all over. They don’t understand all the consequences of that decision and that usually just removing the uterus is enough. It has been for me.

I struggled over whether or not to have surgery for over ten years until I was ready. I am so glad I finally went through it and that I found a surgeon who did it right.

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Melissa Lawler October 23, 2012 at 11:35 am

I had one ovary removed. I had so many 12 Ovarian Cysts and they had destroyed the ovary. There were cysts on the other ovary as well but I would not let the doc remove that one. Then about 6 years later I needed a hysterectomy and I made them save the ovary again. It now hangs out behind my bladder!
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:39 am

It is tougher when there is disease present. There was one large cyst on one of my ovaries which he did remove, but thankfully the ovary wasn’t too damaged. My one concern in writing this article was causing undo anxiety in women who have already had their ovaries removed or who have medical issues or diseases that necessitate oophorectomy. Nothing could be further from my intention. But for those of us who still have ours we need to be proactive in making sure that no one takes them out because it is “convenient”. It might be convenient for the doctor, but it is definitely not going to be convenient for the woman.

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Susan in the Boonies October 23, 2012 at 11:34 am

Very important information for anyone who is having some work done on her girlie parts.

Well done!
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:40 am

Thank you, Susan. I hope that we can get more education out there so women understand their options. Removal of healthy ovaries is NOT a small medical decision and should never be done lightly or without the woman being fully informed of what the risks might be.

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Jenn October 23, 2012 at 11:20 am

Excellent information to consider. I have not crossed this road yet–but I will take your advice and get a second opinion if this should be an event in my life. Thanks for putting this out there 🙂
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:41 am

I hope you never have to cross this road. I had always planned to keep all my parts, but my uterus kept bleeding and I was having other worsening issues as a result of childbirth. At this end, I am so glad I had this surgery. I couldn’t be happier with the results. But these surgeries should never be undertaken lightly.

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Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen October 23, 2012 at 11:07 am

Thanks for the great info. Chloe!
When I had my hysterectomy (the BEST medical decision of my entire life!) at age 48, there was no discussion what so ever of removing my healthy ovaries. Still glad I have them. They’re working for me!
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

Hey Laura! I also am glad I had my surgery. I’ve had so many wonderful benefits and it was definitely the right choice for me. It astonishes me that ovaries are treated this way. They are important organs that perform an important task. Removing them should never be done for convenience. I’m glad you have yours and that they are still doing their job.

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Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen October 25, 2012 at 7:07 am

Chloe:
Just added a link from this post to my Healthy Aging Blog. Sure hope that’s OK: http://thehealthyagingblog.com/2012/10/to-keep-your-ovaries-or-not/
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Chloe Jeffreys October 25, 2012 at 8:01 am

Totally cool! This is a very serious issue and with so many elective hysterectomies in the US (It’s the second most common surgery for women) it is a hugely timely topic.

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Anne (@notasupermom) October 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

After my grandmother had my father in the late 30’s she had a full hysterectomy. They gutted her like a fish.

It negatively affected her marriage, her parenting, and especially her health in old age.

She went through menopause at 28 with no HRT. She made it into her middle 80’s, but I wouldn’t have called it living. Her bones we so brittle that turning in bed broke her ankle because the blanket on her legs was too heavy.

I often wonder how different our lives would have turned out if my grandmother had had better medical care.
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

It is astonishing how readily complete hysterectomies used to be done on YOUNG women. One of my grandmothers also had a complete hysterectomy at 23. The doctor felt she was done having children and didn’t need any of those parts. The osteoporosis she endured was a nightmare. Anyone who has seen severe osteoporosis knows that this isn’t a disease that should be taken lightly. It is a serious condition that causes debilitating pain and suffering. Watching my grandmother and my mother suffer from it has made me take it very seriously, that’s for sure.

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Jack October 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

I am obviously not a woman, but my line of thinking isn’t all that far off. It is why I have instructed all docs who wish to retain use of their hands to keep sharp objects away from places below the waist.

I intend to leave this world with the same parts I came in with, except the foreskin which I never wanted/needed anyway.

And some hair on my head, but had I been asked I probably would have kept that.

So let’s recap, foreskin can go, hair can stay- not that you asked, but we try to provide service round these parts.

Hope you are doing well Chloe.

-J
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hey Jack! Always nice to have a man chime in. I’m glad to get your support here that you wouldn’t take removal of your testicles lightly. It is interesting to me that a woman who objects to having her healthy ovaries removed is treated a bit like she daft and neurotic by the medical profession. Not that I’m saying I’m not daft and neurotic, but not about my ovaries. About those I’m deadly serious.

I hear you about the hair. I’m pretty sure my husband would prefer his to be returned to its rightful place upon his head. As far as his balls go, he also has taken a dim view of surgery on them.

As far as me? I’m feeling terrific. I couldn’t be happier with my surgical results and plan to write more about this topic in the future. There is a ton of bad information out there and lots of women are having a terrible time of it as a result of ill-advised surgeries performed by less-than marvelous surgeons. If I can speak to that and prevent a little suffering then I’ll have done a good thing here.

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Julie Danis October 23, 2012 at 9:52 am

My new favorite retort: “How would you feel if you went in for a vasectomy and woke up without your balls.” I might say “testes” instead of balls, depending upon the doctor.

Great post Chloe. My ovaries never got to play a part in making babies but I’m still glad to have them around.
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

Testes might be a nicer word. But then you spend more time around princes and diplomats than I do, my friend.

My ovaries have made 3 babies and a few zygotes which isn’t very much when you consider how long they’ve been pumping out the eggs. But more to the point they’ve been keeping my heart healthy and my bones as strong as they are. I think it is insulting that doctors only view them as something to make eggs. Ovaries are far more than that!

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AndreaBT October 23, 2012 at 9:17 am

This was so informative, just the kind of proactive information women need BEFORE they get to that point. We inform ourselves so well before giving birth, but sometimes not so much before operations or procedures. Thanks, Chloe!

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

Andrea, I hope so!! I would love for this information to become more widespread. Women do need to know what their options are before consenting to any surgery. And certainly before consenting to having a healthy body part or organ removed.

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Debi Drecksler October 23, 2012 at 8:58 am

Great informative blog! In my late 40’s and early 50’s I was challenged with very heavy periods (fibroid tumors) and several times my Dr. suggested surgery. I very politely declined (I’m a southern lady) and decided to stick it out having read that when the periods finally stopped, the fibroid tumors would shrink. Besides buying enough sanitary pads to fill a house, I made it through without the surgery. My decision was also based on the fact that my Mother had everything removed at 40, suffered terribly afterwards, and found out later the surgery could have been prevented with alternative methods.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

Debi, I also had fibroid tumors. In 2009 I had an ablation that did reduce my bleeding significantly. If I’d been only dealing with the bleeding I likely would not have opted for surgery, but would have waiting like you did for menopause to end it.

Hysterectomy is the second most common surgery performed on women and is being done far too often and far too liberally. As far as ovaries go, removal of healthy body parts should always be seriously questioned.

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Julia October 23, 2012 at 8:07 am

Preach it! When will we figure out that our bodies are complex and our Girlie Balls have more than one function? Even if one function is over…the secondary and tertiary functions are necessary. Keep having these conversations… (and, as always, love the pictures).

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

Julia, I don’t know! It is bizarre to me that our ovaries are treated so cavalierly by the medical establishment. I’ve heard doctors many times say, “Oh, we’ll just take those out,” without a second thought. They’d never treat testicles this way!!!

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Ginger Kay October 23, 2012 at 7:51 am

I like my girl parts too much to let go of them. Even though I am pretty sure my uterus hates me for not having more babies, and is trying to take me down, I still appreciate it for its years of service.

I can understand, though, why women have opted to “just take it all out” when they’ve been suffering with gynecological problems. I think many do not distinguish the individuals roles of each organ. They just want to not hurt anymore, and they don’t want anything else to start hurting.

Very educational, post, Chloe!
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

In the ten years before my hysterectomy I had several other doctors recommend I have one. Each time they would mention my ovaries in passing and say something like, “Well, we’ll just take those out at the same time so you don’t get cancer.” Every time we came to that part of the discussion I knew I was out. I was not giving up my healthy ovaries for nothing. I was so glad when I found a surgeon who was educated and up-to-date on the research. Even before this research came out it seemed logical to me that doctors shouldn’t be removing healthy organs without a very, very good reason.

I’m glad that research is finally shedding light on this issue. I hope that women will avail themselves of it in order to make better decisions for their health and their lives.

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Maddie Kertay October 23, 2012 at 7:45 am

Girlie Balls keep you sassy!.. if you can keep them you should.. case closed. Biggest problem is that most women don’t know the right questions to ask … and while I am at it.. you SHOULD NOT be having any serious conversation about your reproductive health if you are wearing a paper gown and your doctor is dressed. Either they also put on a gown or you get dressed then talk!!
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

Yes! Girlie balls do keep you sassy. Thank you for sharing this important information with your readers. We need to get the information out there so women will truly know what their options are.

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Lori Jo Vest October 23, 2012 at 7:31 am

Chloe –

You always say what needs to be said so eloquently. (Girlie Balls? Ha!) Love that you’re starting these conversations. We all need to educate ourselves before making any medical decisions and sometimes one or two or even three opinions are needed. Even then, we have the right to decide what’s best for us. Thank you for all that you share.

Lori

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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I feel desperate to get this information out to women before it is too late. For some women there are legitimate reasons to have your ovaries removed. But for most healthy women ovary conservation is the best course of action. Our ovaries are not just for making eggs.

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Molley Mills October 23, 2012 at 5:08 am

The things you write about are so interesting. When we women have trouble in the ‘plumbing’ department it gets so frustrating and we look to the medical profession for help. It is super important to be informed because doctors are only people, not Gods or super humans who know everything. We need all our organs for our bodies to function properly.
I find it very scary how quickly the medical profession just wants to go in and cut stuff out. Not this body… Im staying in tact…Menopause be damned 🙂
Over the many years of my reproductive troubles, and I’ve had a few, doctors who’ve treated me haven’t even considered me, the whole patient, just the part they need to fix and their decisions are so often not the best option. Please continue to spread the word. This is very important stuff. I love it.
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Chloe Jeffreys October 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Hey Molley, thanks for coming by and commenting and sharing this article on twitter. That means the world to me.

I so want to get this information out there. After spending months on hystersisters I saw firsthand how much BAD information there is out there. Women go to that website AFTER having surgeries they later regret. And it is sad.

Before having any major surgery, and certainly before allowing anyone to remove a healthy body part or organ, do your research and get a second opinion. You will never regret doing that.

Sadly, you are 100% right about doctors not always treating the whole person. We are more than the sum of our body parts!

I also wish more doctors, especially gynecologists, would take the lead during appointments. I had many other gynecological issues that no other doctors had even ever asked me about. Doctors often don’t ask their patients about their sex lives or other areas of concern, and patients wait for doctors to bring it up. I think the onus is on physicians to address these issues, especially sexual or genital issues, with their patients and provide a welcoming environment for concerns and questions.

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Iwantmyovaries June 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I have had an ovarian cyst for years, but it got a little bigger about four years ago and I started doing the six month sonograms and the blood tests. The cyst hasn’t really changed in those four years, but the doctors want to remove both ovaries (even though only one ovary has the cyst). I don’t want to do this and want to continue with the conservative six month monitoring. I’d like to get statistics of other women who have gone this route. The side effects of all this surgery sound really horrible.

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