Group Calls for Fallopian Tube Removal to Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk

By Pat Carragher - February 13, 2023

Only 1 in 5 ovarian cancer cases are caught at an early stage, according to the American Cancer Society. The same screening tests used for cervical cancer, such as a Pap test or human papillomavirus (HPV) test, aren’t effective in detecting ovarian cancer. Without effective screening measures, the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance is pushing for more ways for women to reduce their risk of the disease.

In the list of ways to improve ovarian cancer outcomes, the group is encouraging women who are undergoing pelvic surgeries for other conditions to consider having their fallopian tubes removed.

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"There is an increasing amount of data supporting that removal of fallopian tubes only, while retaining the ovaries, is strongly related to a lower risk of ovarian cancer."

- Dr. Shelley Tworoger, Associate Center Director, Population Science

“There is an increasing amount of data supporting that removal of fallopian tubes only, while retaining the ovaries, is strongly related to a lower risk of ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Shelley Tworoger, associate center director of Population Science at Moffitt Cancer Center. “This procedure should only be considered if a woman is already undergoing a hysterectomy for medical reasons or is considering permanent contraception.”

The fallopian tubes are the origin of most high-grade cancers. Removal has been shown to dramatically reduce risk for a late-stage ovarian cancer diagnosis. According to Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Moffitt’s Gynecologic Oncology Program, the removal procedure takes only an additional 10 to 15 minutes if a woman is already undergoing another surgery.

Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gynecologic Oncology Program
Dr. Robert Wenham, Chair, Gynecologic Oncology Program

“Fallopian tubes aren’t good for anything without a uterus,” Wenham said. “Once a woman undergoes a hysterectomy and the uterus is gone, the fallopian tubes can only cause problems. We can reduce the average woman’s relative risk of ovarian cancer by approximately half, and the absolute lifetime risk by 1% to 2%, by removing the fallopian tubes. That risk reduction is even greater for high-risk women. There are some risks to the additional surgery, but in the hands of a competent surgeon, those risks are small.”

According to Tworoger, there have been multiple studies showing that those risks are few and short-term outside of the normal risks of having surgery. It is unknown if there are longer-term effects like early menopause, thus more research is needed to be certain. Cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, among other problems, can be linked to early menopause, according to Wenham.

While the messaging is aimed at women who are past their childbearing years or women who do not wish to conceive, the group is also calling on all women to be aware of their genetic risks for ovarian cancer and to promote genetic testing to at-risk populations. Population-based genetic testing has been shown to decrease incidence and mortality.

“Given that we know that screening the general public for ovarian cancer using CA-125 and ultrasound does not save lives in the general population, and that population screening, which can reduce mortality is likely decades away, what does this mean for the ovarian cancer community?” the statement reads. “It means we have an important opportunity to focus on what CAN improve outcomes. We have more clarity than ever before on how to best direct valuable resources to have the most impact to benefit the most people, both now and in the future.”

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