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Can surgery prevent ovarian cancer?

Barbara A. Goff, MD
Gynecologic Oncology

Surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tube is the only known way at this time to prevent ovarian cancer, however there are down sides to having the ovaries removed. Women who have their ovaries removed prior to menopause are at elevated risk for heart disease, osteoporosis and bone fractures, dementia with aging, and possible sexual dysfunction. In addition, there are the risks of having a surgical procedure. Because of this, prophylactic removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes are recommended only for patients with known genetic mutations that put them at risk for ovarian cancer or strong family histories.

Gustavo Rodriguez, MD
Gynecologic Oncology
Women who have a really high risk for ovarian cancer, who have a very strong hereditary predisposition, and whose risk is as high as 40 percent are candidates for preventive operations to remove the ovaries once they’ve completed having a family. Our screening tests aren’t great. Doctors have to discuss that with the women they are treating, but the tests are better than nothing. Doctors do use the tests, and if it leads to an unnecessary surgery, there’s a silver lining because it’s a preventive operation, but women who are at average risk are not candidates.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.