The biggest pros of fallopian tube removal have to do with health, particularly where disease prevention and pain reduction are concerned, while cons include reduced fertility and potentially serious side effects of surgery. Women who are at high risk of ovarian or breast cancer or who are prone to cysts and tumors often choose tube removal as a way of preventing problems later on. Except in situations where only part of the tube is removed, however, the surgery often greatly diminishes or eliminates the possibility of getting pregnant. Post-operative women also frequently experience a range or hormonal shifts and sometimes go through early menopause. Anyone considering tube removal should carefully weigh the pros and cons with a healthcare provider who can offer personalized advice.
Decreased Risk of Cancer
Medical experts generally agree that removing the fallopian tubes of healthy women at risk for certain types of breast and ovarian cancer can reduce the chances of these women actually developing the disease later on. This is most common in people with a strong family history of reproductive cancer. Taking the tubes out is one of the most effective ways of preventing malignant growths on either the tubes themselves or the ovaries, which are connected. The relationship to the breasts is a little bit more perplexing, but a number of studies show that, at least on the cellular level, there may be some strong connections.
Women who have already developed cancer may also want their tubes removed in order to stop the growths from further development. This is usually less effective the further advanced the disease is, as it tends to spread through the lymphatic tissues relatively quickly. In these cases the surgery can sometimes provide relief and a slowing of symptoms, but not necessarily a complete cure.
Relief from Cysts and Tumors
Non-cancerous growths sometimes also occur along the fallopian passageways and can cause a great deal of pain and cramping. A variety of medications and therapies are usually recommended before surgery, but in extreme cases removing the tubes entirely might be the best way to ease pain and discomfort. Total removal under these circumstances is often most attractive when only one tube seems prone to growths and blockages. This way, the woman retains essentially half of her reproductive function.
Women who experience ectopic pregnancies often require tube removal as a means of preventing serious hemorrhage and possible death. Pregnancies are “ectopic” when a fertilized egg implants along the wall of the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus where it can be nurtured and grow. Development along any portion of the tube is usually considered a medical emergency. These eggs will not be able to develop into fetuses because they lack both space and nutrients, and as they grow they pose serious risk to the mother of hemorrhage and blood clotting.
The fallopian tubes are an important part of a woman’s reproductive system, and removal often has serious ramifications on fertility. The tubes connect the ovaries, where the eggs are produced, to the uterus. When they are gone, eggs have no way of getting to the uterus, which means that they have no way of meeting a sperm, getting fertilized, and implanting. Surgery removing both tubes renders a woman completely infertile. Taking one diminishes her chances to become pregnant naturally, but still leaves the possibility open. As long as a woman still has a healthy uterus she may be able to conceive through in vitro fertilization, but this can be costly and invasive.
In some cases, though, partial tube removal can actually help natural conception. This is usually the case when cysts, scar tissue, or other growths are blocking a portion of the tube, making it difficult or impossible for eggs to get past. In these procedures surgeons remove the damaged or defective portions, but then reconnect the tissues; the result is a shorter, but functional, tube.
Total tube removal often includes the ovaries, since the two are connected. When a woman loses her ovaries she also loses a major hormone regulator, and as a result she is likely to experience mood swings and wild fluctuations in her hormone levels, at least at first. The removal of both ovaries usually triggers menopause regardless of the patient’s age. Menopause is basically the body’s way of shutting down its reproductive functions, but the change is often accompanied by surges and drops in estrogen, testosterone, and other sex hormones.
Osteoporosis and Heart Concerns
A sudden loss of estrogen has been connected to a heightened risk for heart disease, which is something women who are thinking about elective tube removal should consider. Post-menopausal women are also usually at a higher risk for osteoporosis, or bone weakening. Both of these risks can be lessened with certain medications, supplements, and exercises, but they can mean lifestyle changes for patients.
General Risks of Surgery
Though the fallopian tubes are small, surgery to remove them is often quite invasive and can require a lot of time for healing and recovery, usually about 6 weeks. Patients must usually remain relatively inactive during this time to reduce the possibility of infection. Some bleeding and discomfort is normal following the procedure, although patients shouldn’t hesitate to contact their doctors if the bleeding is heavy or persistent.
Some fallopian tube removal can be conducted laparoscopically to minimize risks of infection and shorten recovery time, and many women are treated with replacement hormones to help reduce the effects of the lost estrogen. Women considering this surgery should discuss the particulars with their health care providers to learn about their personal risks, options for treatment, and post-surgical prognoses.