There are several ways that women can reduce their risk of ovarian cancer. However, no option is 100 percent effective at preventing the condition. Furthermore, not every risk-reducing measure is right for every woman, so it’s important to consult with a physician, oncologist or genetic counselor before making any personal decisions.
Risk-reducing measures for ovarian cancer
Some factors that can reduce a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer include:
- Taking hormonal birth control pills for longer than five years
- Giving birth
- Breastfeeding for a year or more
- Having a tubal ligation (surgery to "tie the tubes")
- Having both ovaries removed
- Having a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus and cervix)
Women may also choose to have their genes tested to find out if they carry a specific mutation that is correlated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. While testing cannot lower a person’s risk, it can help women determine what sort of screening programs and other preventive measures might be appropriate. It can also provide peace of mind and remove some uncertainty for women who have a strong family history of the condition.
Choosing the best options for you
Some risk-reduction measures are taken independently of their impact on ovarian cancer risk. For instance, many women choose to breastfeed for entirely unrelated reasons, yet still reap the protective benefits.
Other decisions are more complex and should be carefully discussed with an oncologist. Women who are considering surgery to reduce their cancer risk, for instance, should consider the recovery time associated with the procedure and what sort of impact it will have on their fertility. In most situations, though, gynecologic surgery is only performed when there is a major medical necessity – not solely for the purpose of reducing cancer risk.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, women who are concerned about their ovarian cancer risk can turn to our Gynecologic Oncology Program, which is home to a number of experienced surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, genetic counselors and supportive care providers. We are committed to helping every woman make the right decisions for her – whatever those decisions may be – and we recognize the importance of individualized care. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. No referral is required.