Ovarian cancer is relatively rare, but unfortunately, it is one of the most deadly forms of cancer, primarily because it is difficult to detect in its early stages.
Around 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Less than half of these women are expected to survive past 5 years, according to the American Cancer Society.
Because of this, many researchers and medical professionals are eagerly searching for better ways to prevent, detect, and treat ovarian cancer, especially before it develops into a more advanced stage.
One promising approach is the removal of the fallopian tubes, a procedure known as salpingectomy. The fallopian tubes are the structures that transport eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, and they are also where many cases of ovarian cancer begin. By removing the fallopian tubes, it may be possible to prevent the development of ovarian cancer.
Understanding Ovarian Cancer and Its Risk Factors
There are three primary types of ovarian cancer:
- Epithelial tumors: formed in the outer layer of the ovary
- Germ cell tumors: formed in the cells that produce eggs
- Stromal tumors: formed in the hormone-producing cells
Several factors are known to increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer, including:
- age (middle-aged or older)
- family history of ovarian cancer
- personal history of breast, uterine, or colon cancer
- personal history of endometriosis
- difficulties conceiving or never giving birth
- inherited genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity
Removal of Fallopian Tubes For Cancer Prevention
The fallopian tubes are the structures that connect the ovaries to the uterus, and they are also where many cases of ovarian cancer begin. By removing the fallopian tubes, a procedure known as opportunistic salpingectomy (OS), it may be possible to reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
As with any invasive surgery, this procedure does carry some risks. Therefore, fallopian tube removal is typically performed during other pelvic surgeries or gynecological procedures, such as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or instead of tubal ligation (tying off or sealing the fallopian tubes).
During an OS procedure, both fallopian tubes are removed, while the ovaries are left intact, thus maintaining natural hormone production.
The Effectiveness of Fallopian Tube Removal
A clinical study was published in February 2022, which sought to determine the effectiveness of salpingectomy in preventing ovarian cancer. The study examined observed versus expected rates of ovarian cancer among individuals who underwent fallopian tube removal compared to those who underwent other pelvic surgeries or gynecological procedures between 2008 and 2017.
The study found that the removal group had significantly fewer serious and epithelial ovarian cancers than were expected according to the rate at which they arose in the control group. This suggests that opportunistic salpingectomy may be a safe and effective way to substantially reduce ovarian cancer risk.
Who Should Consider Fallopian Tube Removal?
Not every woman should consider fallopian tube removal. It is most appropriate for women who have a high risk of developing ovarian cancer, such as those who have a personal or family history of ovarian cancer or certain inherited genetic mutations.
Women who have completed childbearing and are planning to undergo another pelvic surgery or gynecological procedure may also consider salpingectomy.
You should discuss the potential benefits and risks of fallopian tube removal with your healthcare provider and determine if it is the right choice for you. Your healthcare provider can help you evaluate your personal risk factors for ovarian cancer and provide guidance on whether fallopian tube removal is a suitable option for you.