Actress Olivia Munn is seen here at an event.Share on Pinterest
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  • The actress is talking about why she underwent a hysterectomy during breast cancer treatment.
  • Munn previously disclosed she was diagnosed with Luminal B breast cancer.
  • Certain types of breast cancer are stimulated by the production of estrogen, and removing the ovaries can help prevent future cancer from occurring.

Olivia Munn recently shared that she had a hysterectomy, a surgery that removes your uterus, after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

The actress, 43, also had both ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, a procedure known as a salpingo-oophorectomy, according to her interview with Vogue.

Munn underwent a double mastectomy last year after a biopsy revealed she had Luminal B breast cancer, a fast-growing cancer, in both breasts.

Certain types of breast cancer are stimulated by the production of estrogen, and removing the ovaries can help prevent future cancer from occurring.

While the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes can significantly lower the risk of cancer in certain people, the decision to undergo the procedure should weigh additional factors, including genetics, family history, and potential risks.

“A thoughtful discussion needs to take place with the patient about her baseline risk of breast cancer and how much this would be reduced by surgery,” Amy Bremner, MD, a breast surgical oncologist and medical director of breast surgical oncology at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA, told Healthline.

The ovaries are the main source of estrogen, a female sex hormone that is heavily involved in the development of some breast cancers.

Certain types of breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive, which means cancer cells need estrogen to grow.

“This is especially true in women who have not experienced menopause,” says Manolis Tsatsas, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at Staten Island University Hospital.

Luminal breast cancers are often, but not always, estrogen receptor-positive.

An oophorectomy has a therapeutic effect that is equivalent to ovarian suppression, according to Rachel Jankowitz, MD, the medical director of the Rena Rowan Breast Center at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.

Ovarian suppression, a technique that prevents the ovaries from producing estrogen, can be achieved through drug therapy or surgical removal of the ovaries.

“Reducing the amount of this hormone in the body by removing the ovaries may have a slight protective effect on breast cancer risk,” said Bremner.

The benefits are most pronounced in people who are carriers of the BRCA mutations, which are genetic abnormalities that can lead to cancer.

A hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, does not have a therapeutic effect on breast cancer, according to Jankowitz.

“Many patients make a personal decision to remove the uterus at the time of oophorectomy for various reasons,” said Jankowitz.

Oophorectomies are commonly recommended to people who carry a BRCA genetic mutation.

Individuals with BRCA mutations have up to an 80% lifetime risk of breast cancer and up to a 46% lifetime risk of ovarian cancer.

Evidence suggests the procedure is more effective in people with a BRCA1 mutation compared to those with a BRCA2 mutation.

In fact, up to 70% of women in the United States who carry a BCRA1 mutation choose to have prophylactic oophorectomy, typically by age 35 or whenever their childbearing is complete.

As is the case with any medical procedure, there are risks to consider.

“With the advent of laparoscopic and robotic surgery, recovery times are often short, but there is always the possibility of complications,” said Tsatsas.

Oophorectomies can lead to symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, decreased libido, and vaginal dryness, and potentially increase the risk of other chronic health conditions like heart disease and osteoporosis.

A small percentage of people may experience bleeding, infection and injury to surrounding tissues, Dr. Tsatsas noted.

“The decision of which patients should receive hysterectomy and or oophorectomy needs to be individualized after careful discussion with the oncology providers,” Tsatsas said.

Olivia Munn recently shared that she had a hysterectomy, a surgery that removes your uterus, along with a salpingo-oophorectomy, or the surgical removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes. Munn was diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer last year. Certain types of breast cancer are stimulated by the production of estrogen, and removing the ovaries can help prevent future cancer from occurring.