How Fallopian Tube Removal Could Prevent Most Common Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is not the most common type of gynecologic cancer; however, it is the most deadly. Even though 10-15% of ovarian cancers are hereditary, a majority of women who develop ovarian cancer present no risk factors or have no family history of the disease. For any type of cancer, screening and early detection is important because it can increase the chances of successful treatment and survival. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is often difficult to detect, especially in the early stages, because it presents ‘silent’ symptoms. For this reason, ovarian cancer is referred to the ‘silent killer’.
There are several theories as to what is the exact cause of ovarian cancer. One particular theory stresses that cancer-causing elements pass through the uterus and fallopian tubes in order to reach the ovaries. This would support the notion that removal of the uterus or fallopian tubes affects the risk of ovarian cancer. To date, doctors are continuously recommending screening options and developing new strategies to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage.
Is fallopian tube removal the best option?
Yet, a major breakthrough has been made it clear that perhaps the best strategy is to prevent ovarian cancer from occurring in the first place. Researchers have identified the fallopian tubes as the main source of ovarian cancer or rather, the origin. They stress that their removal can decrease the side effects and long-term risks associated with the disease.
A recent study showed that high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas (HGSOC), the most common type of ovarian cancer that accounts for more than 75% of ovarian cancers, originates from abnormal cells in the fallopian tubes at least 7 years before the disease has a chance to fully develop. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and several others found that young women at high risk of HGSOC should undergo risk-reducing surgery for removal of the fallopian tubes (salpingectomy) so that they can dodge early menopause and postpone removal of the ovaries. Moreover, women who have already had their fallopian tubes removed can identify genetic changes within their bodies in an attempt to prevent the development of ovarian cancer or detect the disease at an early stage. Nowadays, several screening techniques, such as Pap tests or imaging tests, are available to help identify any abnormalities within the fallopian tubes.
More about the study
The research team, led by Sana Intidhar Labidi-Galy of Geneva University Hospital, found that HGSOC is difficult to detect at an early stage because once it develops, the disease metastasizes within two years. “In patients with metastatic lesions, the time between the initiation of the ovarian carcinoma and development of metastases appears to have been rapid (average 2 years),” wrote the researchers. For the women diagnosed with the disease, over 70% are diagnosed at an advanced stage. The researchers expressed their findings to “have significant implications for the prevention, early detection, and therapeutic intervention of this disease."
Read on to learn more about this study and what it means for the future of ovarian cancer prevention.