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Study prompts doctors to renew recommendations for fallopian tube removal to prevent ovarian cancer

Doctors recommend fallopian tube removal to prevent ovarian cancer
Doctors recommend fallopian tube removal to prevent ovarian cancer 02:04

NEW YORK - Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Some doctors have renewed calls for some women to remove their fallopian tubes, even if they don't have a high genetic risk. 

It follows what many call a disappointing study about screening for the disease. 

Women - even those without a genetic mutation for ovarian cancer - are being urged to consider removing their fallopian tubes. 

"I'm not, by any means, advocating that someone who is at average risk go to their doctor and say 'Hey, do this surgery for me,'" said Dr. Bhavana Pothuri.

Pothuri, a gynecological oncologist at NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center, says the recommendation is for patients who are done having children and already undergoing a procedure. 

"Whether it be for a hysterectomy, a cyst removal, treatments of endometriosis or a tubal ligation – should really talk to their doctors about removing their tubes," Pothuri said. 

Pothuri is on the board of the Society of Gynelogic Oncology. The group endorsed a statement about this by the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance earlier this week, following a large clinical trial published in 2021 which found "detecting ovarian cancer earlier in the course of its disease progression - which could be at an earlier stage - may not prevent a woman from dying."

"We know now we're going to need to detect it at least five years earlier, before symptoms ever even start. And that's a hard blow to our community," said Audra Moran, president and CEO of OCRA. "There is currently no method of early detection that will detect it that early."

So the focus is prevention. 

Pothuri says doctors were actually starting to recommend fallopian tube removal in 2013. 

"When the thinking about the origin of these pelvic, serious cancers really arise in the fallopian tube, you know, when that knowledge had started to accumulate," Pothuri said.

And if you've already tested for genetic mutations? 

"Oftentimes people don't know exactly what everyone in their family had. I think about my grandmother, and I think, oh, I'm not sure what kind of cancer she had. So people should actually ask questions and start really exploring that," Moran said. 

Pothuri says having your fallopian tubes removed adds an additional 15 minutes to the procedure you're having, and because you're not removing your ovaries, you preserve your hormonal function. 

For women at high genetic risk, the standard is to have ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. 

Talk to your doctor. 

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