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 particular technique your doctor recommends. If your doctor removes your ovaries or permanently shuts down ovarian production, 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.You should discuss different treatments with your doctor or healthcare provider to best understand which option is right for you.
Types of ovarian ablation
There are three methods of ovarian ablation. They are:
- 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.
Why is ovarian ablation performed?
Your doctor may recommend ovarian ablation to treat certain types of breast cancers that grow in response to the hormone estrogen. Doctors use ovarian ablation most commonly to help treat hormone-dependent breast cancer in premenopausal women with normal ovarian function. Estrogen makes these types of breast cancers grow. Shutting down the ovaries drastically reduces estrogen production in the body. This can help shrink breast cancer tumors, prevent the spread of breast cancer, and lower the chances of its reoccurrence.
Other types of breast cancer treatment include mastectomy and chemotherapy as well as hormone therapy. Hormone therapy blocks the action of estrogen—drugs include tamoxifen (Nolvadex) and fulvestrant (Faslodex). Talk with your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion.
How is ovarian ablation performed?
There are three methods of ovarian ablation. Discuss the different treatments with your doctor or healthcare provider to best understand which option is right for you.
Hormone therapy can temporarily suppress estrogen production from the ovaries. Goserelin (Zoladex) and leuprolide (Lupron) are the most common medications used for this. Both medications are injections given once a month for several months. Leuprolide is also available as a long-lasting depot injection that only needs to be given every few months. Your ovaries may resume producing estrogen a few weeks to a few months after you stop receiving the injections. This may be an advantage for women who still want to bear children after treatment.
A gynecologic surgeon or general surgeon leads a surgical team to perform an oophorectomy in a hospital. Your surgeon performs the procedure by making an incision in your lower abdomen. He or she removes your ovaries and may also remove your fallopian tubes.
You will most likely receive general anesthesia for your surgery. General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a special type of sleep. During general anesthesia, you are unaware of the procedure and will not feel any pain.
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.