Recently tennis legend Chris Evert, who had undergone treatment for stage 1 ovarian cancer two years ago, announced that doctors had found a recurrence of cancer in her pelvic region. “My cancer is back,” Evert said in a statement. “While this is a diagnosis I never wanted to hear, I once again feel fortunate that it was caught early.” Evert has a family history of ovarian cancer and had learned in 2021 that she had a variant of the BRCA1 gene, which puts her at higher risk for ovarian and breast cancer.
According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, about 20,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, with more than 13,000 projected to die from the disease. Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women — more than any other female reproductive cancer.
So how can women lower the risk for ovarian cancer? Several leading medical groups recommend that women who undergo pelvic surgeries should also consider having their fallopian tubes removed at the same time if they are finished having children.
The guidance builds on research that shows that many ovarian cancers begin in the fallopian tubes. According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, which issued its recommendation for the preventive surgery in 2023, 70% of the most common and lethal ovarian cancers begin in the fallopian tubes.
“We don’t have good screening tools for ovarian cancer. Therefore, we don’t have a way to diagnose the disease early,” says Dr. Jason Wright, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “That makes strategies for prevention welcome.”