Ovarian Cancer Prevention
Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, especially in its early stages. Routine pelvic exams detect only 1 in 10,000 ovarian cancers in asymptomatic patients. Identifying women who are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer is the first line of defense in stopping this disease before it progresses.
While there are a handful of risk factors associated with ovarian cancer (age, menopausal hormone therapy, never being pregnant, personal history of other cancers), family history is the only factor known to be associated with a significant increase in ovarian cancer.
High Risk Ovarian Cancer Screening
Women who are above-average risk should be screened regularly with the most advanced diagnostics available to ensure there are no signs of developing the disease. Women should also seek a comprehensive ovarian cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling.
You may be above-average risk of developing ovarian cancer if you have a:
- personal history of breast cancer before the age of 40
- male relative with breast cancer
- family history of ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer in a first or second degree relative (mother, sister, grandmother)
- personal or family history of hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch II) in a first or second degree relative personal or family history of a BRCA mutation
Methods to Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk
Oral Contraceptives: these may decrease the risk of ovarian cancer by 30 to 60 percent. This protection also continues for many years after the pills were last taken.
Salpingo-Oophorectomy: this risk-reducing, or prophylactic surgery is the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes before ovarian cancer has been diagnosed. This is a way to prevent breast and ovarian cancers in women who are at high risk of this disease because of mutations in the BRCA genes. Women who opt for this surgery will no longer be able to have children. This surgery has been shown to decrease the risk of ovarian and related cancers by 85 to 90 percent.