Roswell Park Experts Assess Role of Fallopian-Tube Surgery in Ovarian Cancer Prevention

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Identifying patients at increased risk for ovarian cancer is key to prevention, early detection and ultimately improved survival. In a new article for the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, two Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center physicians review the state of the science regarding the surgical removal of the fallopian tubes as an option to reduce the risk of the disease.

The fallopian tubes, which transport the eggs from the ovary to the uterus, have been proposed as one of the places where ovarian cancer develops. More and more medical experts are recommending removal of the fallopian tubes after childbearing among women undergoing other surgeries as a way to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Currently, there is a clinical trial ongoing in Canada to remove the fallopian tubes instead of performing tubal ligation to help determine if fallopian tube removal will reduce ovarian cancer risk.

“The fallopian tubes may be the origin of up to half of ovarian cancers, and removing the fallopian tubes when women have completed childbearing may reduce the rate of ovarian cancer in the population by 20-40 percent,” says J. Brian Szender, MD, Fellow in Gynecologic Oncology at Roswell Park. “However, as the general population of women is at low risk for developing ovarian cancer, fallopian tubes would only be removed from willing patients who are undergoing surgery for other reasons.”

Large numbers of willing participants in future epidemiologic studies would be needed to monitor the effects of these interventions. “It will be at least 20 years before we can see whether this risk-reduction strategy prevented average-risk women from developing cancer,” notes Shashikant Lele, MD, FACOG, Clinical Chief, Department of Gynecologic Oncology at Roswell Park.

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Deborah Pettibone, Public Information Specialist