Hysterectomy and oophorectomy (the removal of ovaries) are performed to treat various diseases in women. This also includes cancer. A decline in estrogen and testosterone levels in the blood accompany these procedures. Many women who have undergone surgical removal of their uterus and/or ovaries can develop symptoms of sexual dysfunction, fatigue, low mood and decreased muscle mass.
New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) has found that testosterone administration in women with low testosterone levels, whom previously had undergone hysterectomy with or without oophorectomy, was associated with improvements in sexual function, muscle mass and physical function. This research appears in the November 27, 2013 online issue of Menopause.
"Recently, there has been a lot of interest in testosterone treatment in postmenopausal women for sexual dysfunction and other various health conditions. However, no previous studies have evaluated the benefits and negative effects of testosterone replacement over a wide range of doses," explained Grace Huang, MD, a research physician in BWH's Department of Endocrinology and lead author on this study.
"A primary concern with testosterone therapy is that it can cause symptoms of masculinization among women. These symptoms include unwanted hair growth, acne and lower voice tone. It's important to note that very few of these side effects were seen in our study," explained Huang.
Currently the FDA has not approved testosterone therapy for women because of inadequate long-term safety data. The researchers note that longer term studies are needed to determine if testosterone can be given safely to women to improve important health outcomes without inducing other health risks such as heart disease and breast cancer.