Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

Risk-reducing Oophorectomy

by c

A few months post bi-lateral risk-reducing mastectomy I returned to see my genetics consultant for a review and was advised that to reduce my risks of breast and ovarian cancer further I should consider removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes which is called bi-lateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Like risk-reducing mastectomy this procedure does not take away the risk completely as some ovarian tissue lines the peritoneum. I felt I needed some time to consider and research this as it would be yet more surgery; but after 3 months of consideration, talking to my psych-oncology nurse again and reading up on the pros and cons of such a step at my age (54 a year post-menopausal) I decided to ask for a referral to the surgeon recommended by Genetics, a gynaecological oncologist. The procedure should be done in such a way as to minimise the risk of any potential cancer cells being lost in the pelvis which is also checked for abnormalities at the same time. The surgeon confimed that because of my age and having had a symptom-free menopause, it was very unlikely that I would suffer significant post-op problems in terms of hot flushes etc and that my increasing post-menopausal risk of ovarian cancer outweighed issues around oophorectomy as I am fit and healthy with good bone and heart health. It was agreed that we would go ahead with a timescale of about a 12 week wait.

The operation is usually a straightforward one with an overnight stay in hospital; several pelvic screening exams were carried out in a very thorough pre-op session to try to preempt any problems while in Theatre. It is usually done as a keyhole procedure (laparoscopically) which means that a camera is put through the tummy button to see internally while instruments are inserted at either side of the tummy to remove the ovaries and tubes. In my case there was a fourth incision on the bikini line to remove everything intact as the tissue was to be sent off to Pathology. The incisions were 1cm long with 1 or 2 stitches through each which were removed 1 week later by my surgery nurse. They were covered by a dressing which I removed one day post-op in the shower prior to being discharged; I had no real pain; after the usual morphine in Theatre I then handled my own pain relief with paracetamol only which makes going home quickly more of a certainty for me.

One side-effect of the abdomen being filled with gas to help the surgeon see what he is doing is possible nerve pain in the back and shoulders. I did not get this though I could feel bubbles of gas lodged under my diaphragm for several days...getting mobile is the key to this being absorbed quickly. Other complications can include bleeding, damage to other organs, infection.

I was discharged post-op to my GP who I then saw for a check one month later; this operation is much easier than the mastectomy; however it is abdominal surgery and the surgeon advised me not to drive for 4 weeks, not to lift for 6 at least and to be generally cautious about doing too much too soon.

The wounds have healed very well and I have started using the Mepiform silicone gel sheets as suggested by the surgical nurse to ensure the best outcome for the scars.

Scar management

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Nipple Reconstruction
Areola Tattooing

From the beginning :
Risk Reducing Mastectomies in 2 OPs