A pair of glands located in the pelvis on either side of a woman’s uterus, the ovaries are responsible for housing and releasing eggs for fertilization. As the primary female reproductive organs, the ovaries are also responsible for producing the female hormone estrogen during a woman’s reproductive years. In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, estrogen stimulates the development of the breasts and other secondary sex characteristics during puberty. At that point, a hormonal connection between the ovaries and the breasts is established.
The effect of ovary-produced estrogen on certain breast cancers
Many types of breast cancer are hormonally driven. More specifically, hormone-positive tumor cells have receptors that bind with estrogen, which then fuels the growth of the cancer. To help prevent estrogen from feeding a breast tumor, some premenopausal women who are diagnosed with hormone-positive breast cancer elect to receive anti-estrogen therapy or have their ovaries surgically removed.
The genetic link between the ovaries and the breasts
The ovaries and the breasts are also connected through a genetic component. Most notably, researchers have established that BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations can increase the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Therefore, genetic testing and counseling may be recommended for a woman who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in order to help her manage her breast cancer risk. Likewise, genetic testing and counseling may be recommended for a woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer and has a known family history of breast or ovarian cancer in order to help her manage her ovarian cancer risk.
If you would like to learn more about the connection between breast cancer and ovarian cancer, you can rapidly connect with a specialist in the renowned Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program Moffitt Cancer Center. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. You can benefit from our extensive cancer expertise within one day.