Can ovarian cancer deaths be prevented? #1105/13

A woman in her late 40’s dies less than a year after ovarian cancer is diagnosed.  She has 3 daughters ranging from 16 to 25 years of age.  How can ovarian cancer be provented in those 3 young woman?  How may deaths from ovarian cancer be prevented during the lifetime of ANY woman, whether or not she has a family history of ovarian cancer?



 As it is often the case in trying to solve a health problem, a single approach is not enough.  We already have several ways of preventing women from ever getting ovarian cancer.  But what the world seems to be most excited about which will probably be rewarded with a Nobel Prize when it is accomplished, is a test to diagnose ovarian cancer early. NONE EXISTS TODAY.  But ways to prevent ovarian cancer do exist today!  And of course, when we prevent ovarian cancer from ever happening we definitely do lower ovarian cancer deaths.

 

So what can be done to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer for the 3 daughters of the woman who died last month from ovarian cancer?

 

A woman may use contraceptives that that primarily work by suppressing ovulation.  Pills, patches, rings, Nexplanon implants and Depo-Provera injections all markedly suppress ovulation reducing a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer.  A British physician/epidemiologist calls ovarian cancer a disease of “incessant ovulators”. 

 

The hormonal contraceptive with which we have by far the most experience is birth control pills.

 

Birth control pills taken for a total of 10 years diminish by 80% a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer and the protective effect persists to some extent for 30 years after she stops taking pills.

 

A woman need not have taken pills for a total of 10 consecutive years.  It is the cumulative number of years that counts.

 

If a woman has tubal sterilization done, her fallopian tubes may be removed since it is now known that changes in the cells of the delicate parts of the fallopian tubes that reach out over the ovaries is where  “ovarian cancer” often begins.  WHEN TUBAL STERILIZATION IS GOING TO BE PREFORMED A WOMAN SHOULD COMMUNICATE TO HER PHYSICIAN THAT SHE WANTS HER FALLOPIAN TUBES REMOVED NOT SIMPLY BLOCKED BY LIGATION, BURNING OR CLAMPING.

 

Similarly, if a woman has a hysterectomy (most often done for women in their late 40’s and early 50’s, the ovaries and the fallopian tubes can be removed.

 

A woman’s genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer can be detected by an expensive test. This is the test that was positive for movie star, Angelina Jolie, leading to removal of her breasts (and reconstructive surgery earlier this year).  People discussing her mother’s death from breast cancer, her operations in 2013, and her plan to have her ovaries removed when she approaches menopause bring attention to the third way of preventing ovarian cancer deaths: removal of the ovaries in high risk women. 

 
Take home messages for women – not just teenagers:

·        Use of pills for10 years will lower your risk of ever developing ovarian cancer while on pills and for almost 30 years after stopping pills.  Depo-Provera injections appear to have the same protective effect.

·        If you are going to have a tubal sterilization operation or hysterectomy, be sure your physician knows you want your fallopian tubes removed too.  Not all physicians know this.  Also tell female relatives about this!

 

 

To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of all available contraceptive methods, go to www.managingcontraception.com and click on Choices.  You can also order this wonderful new educational book from our website or by calling 404-875-5001.  Do you have your copy yet?

 


Key Words:   ovarian cancer, enthusiasm, deaths, prevent, decrease, risk, contraceptives, suppressing ovulation, Nexplanon implant, Depo-Provera injections, pills, patches, rings, tubal sterilization, fallopian tubes, removed, cells, ovaries, surgical interventions, genetic predisposition, breast, reconstructive surgery

Posted 11-20-2013, Updated 11-28-2013

 

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December 1, 2013