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Women who are at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer because of their family history may need to make decisions about the medical management of their cancer risk--whether to have ovarian screening or undergo prophylactic surgery. This qualitative study explores the perceived physical and emotional implications of undergoing preventative surgery using data collected during interviews with 23 high-risk premenopausal women who had undergone prophylactic oophorectomy because of their family history of cancer. Despite the fact that all of these women regarded their decision to undergo surgery extremely positively, 20 women also described what they regarded as the costs of undergoing surgery. These included post-operative complications, the onset of menopausal symptoms, side effects of hormone replacement therapy, and negative effects on body image and gender identity. The perceived benefits of surgery were described as risk reduction, enabling one to fulfil family obligations, removing the need for gynecological screening, cessation of menstruation, and positive side effects of hormone replacement therapy. This study suggests there is a need to inform women about potential physical and emotional sequelae of oophorectomy prior to undergoing this procedure.

Original publication




Journal article


Genetic testing

Publication Date





148 - 156


Medical School, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Humans, Ovarian Neoplasms, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Ovariectomy, Risk Factors, Retrospective Studies, Premenopause, Adult, Middle Aged, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Female, Interviews as Topic