Mental health conditions prone to unnecessary ovary removal surgeries

Teenager depression
Representation of a woman with a mental health disorder

A new study has revealed that some mental health conditions may prompt women to have their ovaries removed without any medical necessity for it.

Suffering from certain psychiatric conditions may alter women's perception of pain, bleeding and somatic symptoms. It may even prompt the desire to address these issues through medical or surgical treatments, a study published in Journal Menopause has suggested.

"These women may undergo a complex itinerary of interactions with primary care providers and may try several medical treatments," Coauthor Dr Walter Rocca, a professor of epidemiology and neurology in the department of health sciences research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, said.

"When the treatments fail to address the pain or discomfort, some women get referred for gynaecological care or directly for surgery," Rocca told Reuters.

To study the impact of the surgery known as oophorectomy, the researchers compared 1,653 premenopausal women, who had their ovaries removed despite having no signs of cancer, with a control group of 1,653 women who did not have the surgery.

The researchers found that pre-existing mood disorders, anxiety, and somatoform disorders were associated with an increased risk of women choosing to have their ovaries removed.

The risk was higher in women who suffered from multiple disorders, the study reported.

Women with one disorder were 1.55 times more likely to have an oophorectomy, while those with three or more disorders were 2.19 times more likely to get the surgery, said the study.

"Unfortunately, the surgery may not remove the pain or discomfort and will cause important long-term harmful effects. There is a need to develop more conservative strategies to address gynaecological symptoms in the absence of clear pathology," Rocca explained.

Ovary removal sends a woman into early menopause and brings on symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeping problems, and reduced vaginal lubrication. It can also increase her risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

The best way to avoid unnecessary oophorectomies is through "patient and physician education," said Dr Konstantin Zakashansky, director of minimally invasive surgery at the Mount Sinai Health System and an associate professor of gynecologic oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Zakashansky said, "Our attitudes (patients and physicians) towards performing prophylactic oophorectomy in premenopausal and postmenopausal patients have changed (dramatically) over the last 10 years.

"We have become more conservative in making the decision to perform oophorectomy based on recent data pointing to significant long-term adverse health consequences associated with removing ovaries."

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