Surgery May Mean Memory Loss
Most often it's an option presented to women who are undergoing hysterectomy or who face a high risk of ovarian cancer. But now there's evidence that suggests some women who choose to have them removed may face an increased risk of memory problems.
Natasha Matthensrud hit her forties and her monthly cycle changed, not menopause but uterine fibroids and a cyst on her ovary.
"I had many options presented to me, from very noninvasive non surgical up to hysterectomy including removal of one and two of my ovaries," she said.
Natasha chose a hysterectomy, but kept her ovaries. Now new research suggests removing ovaries before menopause may increase the risk of age related memory problems. The Mayo Clinic's Dr. Walter Rocca led the study that followed more than 1,000 women.
"If the ovaries were removed early in life there was almost doubling of risk of cognitive impairment and dementia," he explained.
Even in women who had only one ovary removed. A second study linked the procedure to a higher risk of Parkinson's. Dr. Rocca believes the loss of estrogen before menopause is key.
"Estrogen deficiency was the first step in chain of events that put these women at disadvantage down the road."
Hormone replacement therapy appeared to help some in women who started immediately making it that much more important that women do their homework.
"2000 women will be considering this very question today -- and for those 2000 women right now this is the best information we have to guide that decision: should I keep my ovaries or have removed," Dr. Bobbie Gostout explained.
Natasha did her homework and is comfortable with her decision.
"It's your right to ask questions, to be informed, to be an informed consumer," she said.
A discussion that is becoming increasingly more complicated for women and doctors.
The study found the added memory problems among women who underwent ovary removal did not show up until the women were in their 80s - at which point, researchers note, the signs of dementia appeared at a much faster rate compared to women who did not have their ovaries removed. Experts say it is important to note that this study does not prove a link - rather it was observed as a common event among women. Further research is needed to prove that there is a true cause and effect connection between ovary removal and dementia.