How Can You Reduce the Risk of Ovarian Cancer?

Reviewed on 3/24/2022
Woman getting a pelvic ultrasound
You can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer by avoiding certain risk factors such as using hormone therapy taken after menopause, being overweight/obese, having children later or never carrying a pregnancy to term, fertility treatments, and smoking.

Ovarian cancer occurs when cells in the ovaries, the female reproductive glands, become abnormal and grow out of control. 

The cause of most types of ovarian cancers is not known, though new research has determined that the cancer starts in cells at the tail ends of the fallopian tubes and not necessarily in the ovary itself. 

Risk factors are things known to increase the chances of a person developing a disease. Some risk factors cannot be changed such as genetics and aging, others, such as smoking or avoiding hormone replacement therapy after menopause, can. 

Known risk factors for ovarian cancer that cannot be changed include: 

While there is no way to completely prevent ovarian cancer from occurring, people may be able to reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer by avoiding certain risk factors. Risk factors for developing ovarian cancer that people can change include: 

Additional steps women can take that may lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer include: 

  • Using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) 
    • Use of oral contraceptives for five or more years cuts the risk of developing ovarian cancer in half compared with women who never used oral contraceptives
  • Gynecologic surgery
    • Tubal ligation (“tubes tied”) and hysterectomy may reduce the chance of developing certain types of ovarian cancer
    • Surgeries should only be done for valid medical reasons and not just to reduce ovarian cancer risk

What Are Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer may not cause any symptoms in the earlier stages. When symptoms of ovarian cancer occur, they commonly include:

How Is Ovarian Cancer Diagnosed?

Ovarian cancer is diagnosed with a medical history, pelvic examination, and tests such as: 

Genetic counseling and genetic testing for some inherited gene changes may be recommended for epithelial ovarian cancers. 

What Is the Treatment for Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer treatment may include one or more of the following: 

  • Surgery to remove the cancer
    • The most common method of both diagnosis and therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation  
  • Complementary therapies to treat symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and nausea
  • Clinical trials
Reviewed on 3/24/2022
Image Source: iStock Images