INTRODUCTION: Women with familial cancer syndromes such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (BRCA1 and BRCA2) and Lynch syndrome are at a significantly increased risk of developing ovarian cancer and are advised to undergo prophylactic removal of their ovaries and fallopian tubes at age 35 to 40 years, after childbearing is complete.
METHODS: A comprehensive literature search of studies on risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (RRSO), sexuality, and associated issues was conducted in MEDLINE databases.
RESULTS: Risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy can significantly impact on a woman's psychological and sexual well-being, with women wishing they had received more information about this prior to undergoing surgery. The most commonly reported sexual symptoms experienced are vaginal dryness and reduced libido. Women who are premenopausal at the time of surgery may experience a greater decline in sexual function, with menopausal hormone therapy improving but not alleviating sexual symptoms. Pharmacological treatments including testosterone patches and flibanserin are available but have limited safety data in this group.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite the high rates of sexual difficulties after RRSO, patient satisfaction with the decision to undergo surgery remains high. Preoperative counseling with women who are considering RRSO should include discussion of its potential sexual effects and the limitations of menopausal hormone therapy in managing symptoms of surgical menopause.