Ovarian Cancer: Stopping a Secret Killer

Ovarian cancer kills thousands of women each year, but it shouldn’t. New research is shedding light on how to prevent this deadly cancer, and early detection can save your life. Here’s what you need to know.

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When ovarian cancer is discovered in its earliest stage, it has a 90% survival rate over the next five years. Yet 16,000 women die from it every year, making it the deadliest reproductive system cancer for women. Why? Because in 85% of women it's discovered too late. What doctors are learning now can help us all detect and fight ovarian cancer earlier.

The New Fallopian Tube Connection

By looking at women who have a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer, researchers have found the beginnings of cancer in their fallopian tubes, rather than their ovaries. The fallopian tubes are responsible for bringing eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, and scientists now believe they may also be shuttling cancer cells into ovaries, where a rich blood supply gives them a fertile place to grow.

The research is new and needs to be confirmed, but it could give doctors a new place to look for early signs of ovarian cancer, which has very few symptoms and is difficult to detect. Even more exciting, 40 studies have shown that tubal ligation (a surgery in which the fallopian tubes are “tied,” preventing pregnancy by keeping eggs from traveling to the uterus), reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by a third. And since ovary removal has many serious side effects – an elevated risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia – tubal ligation may be a safer way to reduce ovarian cancer risk.