Hysterectomies lower chance of ovarian cancer, Queensland study finds

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Women who suffer from endometriosis or fibroids who then have a hysterectomy have a significantly lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, a new study has found.

Researchers from QIMR Berghofer studied the medical data of about 800,000 women between 1988 and 2015.

They found that those with endometriosis or uterine fibroids had an 80 per cent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer later in their lives if they had a hysterectomy, compared to women with those conditions who did not.

Women with endometriosis reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 80 percent if they have a hysterectomy, new research has found.

Women with endometriosis reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 80 percent if they have a hysterectomy, new research has found.Credit:Shutterstock

The report’s senior author, Susan Jordan, said they hoped the findings, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week, would give women more information when making a difficult personal health decision.

“Because there are a range of treatments available, women need to have information about the various consequences of their treatment,” Dr Jordan said.

“So that’s where this study comes in, in that it gives women a little more information about what appears to be the benefit of hysterectomy in this situation.

“That’s not to tell women they should be having hysterectomies - that’s a discussion for them and their doctors - but it’s extra information that’s useful for women to know when weighing up the pros and cons of various treatments.”

Endometriosis is a condition affecting around 10 per cent of women, which causes the tissue that would usually line the uterus to be found in other parts of the body, usually the abdomen.

Among its symptoms are heavy blood flow during periods as well as intense abdominal pain which can become debilitating in some cases.

Queensland Endometriosis Association president Jessica Taylor said the condition was still not well understood and welcomed any research which helped to increase the pool of knowledge.

Emma Watkins from children's band The Wiggles recently went public with her struggle with endometriosis which forced her to take a break from touring.

Emma Watkins from children's band The Wiggles recently went public with her struggle with endometriosis which forced her to take a break from touring.

“It is good to see that this condition is being looked at in detail through things like this study,” Ms Taylor said.

“Currently there’s not a lot of funding which goes towards endometriosis research.”

However, Ms Taylor said the lack of knowledge about the condition meant, in some cases, women were getting hysterectomies to mitigate symptoms, which had the opposite effect.

“Many women have a hysterectomy because they’re told it will reduce the pain of endo,” she said.

“But we know that’s not always the case, in some cases the woman is worse off after the hysterectomy.

“When they’re faced with that result, psychologically it impacts them. “

Women who have a hysterectomy often have their ovaries left in place for the hormonal benefits.

Around one in 80 women develop ovarian cancer by the age of 85, but the rate is three times higher for those diagnosed with endometriosis or fibroids.

Interestingly the QIMR study found having a hysterectomy made no difference to the risk of developing ovarian cancer in women who did not have endometriosis or fibroids.

Each year 1600 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 1000 women die from the disease.

While not as common as breast cancer, ovarian cancer is more aggressive and has a worse survival rate.

Fewer than half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live longer than five years after their first diagnosis, compared to 90 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer.