What is ovarian ablation?
Ovarian ablation is the shutdown of ovarian function in order to suppress the production of hormones. Doctors most commonly recommend ovarian ablation to help treat hormone-dependent breast cancer in women who have not yet reached menopause. Because estrogen makes hormone-dependent breast cancers grow, eliminating estrogen production in the body can help shrink breast cancer tumors, prevent spread of breast cancer, and lower the chances of its recurrence.
Ovarian ablation may temporarily or permanently shut down your ovaries, depending on the technique your doctor recommends. If your doctor removes your ovaries or permanently shuts down ovarian production with radiation, you will enter menopause and stop having reproductive functions. This means you will no longer have a menstrual period or be able to get pregnant.
Ovarian ablation is a common but serious medical technique with significant risks and potential complications. It is only one method used to treat breast cancer. Ask your doctor about your options to understand which option is best for you.
Types of ovarian ablation
There are three methods of ovarian ablation:
- Medication therapy chemically suppresses the production of estrogen and other hormones from the ovaries. The most common medications used for this purpose are goserelin (Zoladex) and leuprolide (Lupron). Your ovaries may resume hormone production a few weeks to a few months after you stop taking the medication.
- Surgery to remove the ovaries is called an oophorectomy. After this irreversible procedure, you will enter menopause, stop having periods, and lose the ability to become pregnant.
- Radiation therapy permanently shuts down ovarian function. Doctors rarely use radiation to destroy ovarian function.
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Hormone therapy. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/OverviewGuide/breast-cancer-overview-treating-hormone-therapy. Accessed April 15, 2013.
Ovarian ablation and breast cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertypes/Breast/Treatingbreastcancer/Hormonaltherapies/Ovarianablation.aspx. Accessed April 15, 2013.
Ovarian Shutdownor Removal. Breastcancer.org. http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/hormonal/ovary_removal.jsp. Accessed April 15, 2013.