Throughout life, our bodies act as intricate clocks, marking the passage of time with steadfast hands. However, for some women, having their ovaries removed can accelerate the aging process, presenting unique challenges that I have faced since my oophorectomy for Lynch syndrome over a decade ago.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helped, but did not completely alleviate the changes I experienced. Oophorectomy removes one or both ovaries and is often a necessary medical procedure for those with hereditary cancer syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome or BRCA, to reduce the risk of developing untreatable ovarian cancer or for those with ovarian cancer.
In my case, it was a preventative measure against ovarian cancer associated with Lynch syndrome. Despite the benefits of reducing the risk of cancer, the method initiates significant changes similar to moving the clock faster than usual. The ovaries serve as the center of the body’s hormones, producing vital elements such as estrogen and progesterone, key to maintaining youthful attributes and influencing various bodily functions.
After surgery, the sudden drop in hormone production accelerates the aging process in a number of ways. Estrogen deficiency leads to rapid bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures — I’m writing this article with a broken foot.
Similarly, a drop in estrogen can result in hair thinning, graying, and texture changes, a challenge I’ve been able to address with the help of hair color and collagen supplements. Estrogen also plays a key role in maintaining skin elasticity and hydration. I adopted a meticulous skin care routine, including moisturizers, sipping water, and found collagen replacement helpful. The protection that estrogen provides to the cardiovascular system is also compromised after oophorectomy, potentially accelerating the development of heart disease.
I was born with a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol known as familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, but my cholesterol levels worsened after the surgery. I have also developed high blood pressure over the past few years. Managing high cholesterol and blood pressure through diet, lifestyle changes, and medication has become essential. Hormonal balance greatly affects emotional and cognitive well-being, and its disruption after oophorectomy can lead to mood swings, cognitive changes, and difficulty concentrating.
I coped with these changes through therapy, support and mental stimulation. I stay sharp by constantly challenging myself by learning new things, reading, hiking, spending time with friends, watching foreign movies, and solving various puzzles, especially word games. Weight management can become more challenging without estrogenic regulation of metabolism. Staying physically active and maintaining a balanced diet have been critical to weight control, and have also benefited me in many other ways.
In managing the effects of accelerated aging after oophorectomy, HRT can be an essential tool for those who have not entered menopause. Although it can alleviate various symptoms and health risks, it is important to discuss its potential advantages and disadvantages with your doctor. Despite the challenges, I have adopted a lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, a careful skin care regimen and being mindful of what I consume – this has made a huge difference in slowing down the aging process brought on by the oophorectomy.
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