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Fallopian tube removal lowers ovarian cancer risk

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Posted January 22, 2016

A University of Queensland gynaecological researcher and cancer surgeon is urging women facing hysterectomy – surgical womb removal – to consider removal of their fallopian tubes to reduce their risk of ovarian cancer.

The Research Director of the Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Professor Andreas Obermair, said women should be aware of the new option for preventing ovarian cancer.

“Research emerging from the United States and Canada has shown that up to half of all ovarian cancers arise in the fallopian tubes rather than in the ovaries,” he said.

Hysterectomy no longer involves the removal of all female reproductive organs. Image credit: The University of Queensland

Hysterectomy no longer involves the removal of all female reproductive organs. Image credit: The University of Queensland

“This means that women who opt to remove their fallopian tubes can reduce their risk by up to 40 per cent.”

He said previous to this research it was thought the only way to prevent ovarian cancer was to remove a woman’s ovaries.

“But, as ovaries produce hormones, this is not a preferred preventative measure in young women as it can result in a woman becoming menopausal,” he said.

Professor Obermair said he would urge women to consider tubal removal if they were having other procedures such as tubal ligation or hysterectomy.

“Women who have their fallopian tubes removed lose the ability to conceive and bear children naturally,” he said.

“But if a woman of child-bearing age wanted a baby after having her tubes removed, she could still go down the path of in-vitro fertilisation.”

There were no other identified side effects or health risks associated with removing fallopian tubes but leaving the ovaries in place.

“Many people mistakenly believe that hysterectomy is the removal of all female reproductive organs, but this is no longer the case,” he said.

“A total hysterectomy is the removal of the cervix and uterus and a sub-total hysterectomy is the removal of just the uterus where the cervix is left behind – a woman can have a total or a subtotal hysterectomy with or without the removal of ovaries or fallopian tubes.

“I am urging women to consider whether they actually need their fallopian tubes and to discuss the option of having them removed instead of clipped, or having them removed during a hysterectomy to reduce future risk of ovarian cancer.”

Source: The University of Queensland

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