Can Ovarian Cancer be Prevented?

At present, there is no known method to prevent ovarian cancer, but some things appear to reduce a woman's risk of developing the disease. They include:

  • Oral contraception: Birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer especially among women who use them for several years. Compared with women who never used oral contraceptive, those who used oral contraceptives for 3 years or more have about a 30%-50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • Breast feeding and pregnancy: Having one or more children, particularly if the first is born before age 25, and breast feeding may decrease a woman's risk.
  • Tubal ligation: This is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are tied to prevent pregnancy. This procedure reduces the relative risk of developing ovarian cancer. Its use as a risk reduction strategy may be appropriate for high risk individuals and should be discussed with your physician.
  • Hysterectomy: A Hysterectomy has been demonstrated to reduce the relative risk of ovarian cancer. A woman should not have a hysterectomy exclusively to avoid the risk of ovarian cancer, but if one is being performed for valid medical reasons and she has a family history of ovarian or breast cancer or is over age forty, she should discuss concurrent ovary removal with her physician.
  • Prophylactic oophorectomy: Oophorectomy is the surgical removal of one or both ovaries. Only recommended for certain high-risk patients, the operation eliminates the risk for ovarian cancer, but not the risk for a less common cancer called Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma. This cancer is similar to ovarian cancer in spread, presentation and treatment. Discussion with your physician is necessary to determine your individual risk and options for prophylactic surgery.

According to the American Cancer Society, eating right, being active, and maintaining a healthy weight are important ways to reduce your risk of cancer as well as other diseases. For the American Cancer Society's for diet and fitness, please visit www.cancer.org.

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