Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors
The good news is that there are several negative risk factors for ovarian cancer. These are risk-reducing factors that decrease your chances of having this disease. Make no mistake, there's nothing negative about negative risk factors for ovarian cancer. These are the kind of risk factors you want to have.
Best of all, women have control over several of these factors. Things that reduce the risk for the disease include:
- Using birth control pills (oral contraceptives) for an extended period of time (the longer, the better)
- Having your tubes tied (tubal ligation)
- Having your uterus surgically removed (hysterectomy)
- Having a baby, particularly before the age of 30
- Having breastfed a baby, particularly for one year or more
- Having your ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed.
If you're concerned about your risk for ovarian cancer, be sure to bring up these concerns with your healthcare provider. It might be a good idea to consider seeing a gynecologist (not a general practitioner or internist) for this concern, as they generally have more experience detecting and dealing with gynecologic cancers.
While much research is being done to try to find better ways of detecting early-stage ovarian cancers (when they are most easily treated), for now, most women will receive a pelvic exam to check for this cancer. A pelvic exam allows your healthcare provider to feel the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum for any abnormalities in their shape or size. If your healthcare provider feels something abnormal or concerning, further tests will be done in order to accurately diagnose the problem, if there is a problem.
If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, genetic testing may be done to help evaluate your risks. For women at an exceptionally high risk for ovarian cancer, surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes may be advised to try to help prevent the disease.
In addition to being vigilant about seeing your healthcare provider every year for a pelvic exam, be aware of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer, and don't be afraid to make an appointment and have your concerns about these symptoms addressed.