In some cases, those who are done with childbearing may be advised to have tubes removed if they are having another gynecological surgery anyway
By Teddy Amenabar, Amy Goldstein and Lindsey Bever
To prevent more cases of ovarian cancer, a major research and advocacy group is suggesting an aggressive prevention strategy: remove a woman’s fallopian tubes if she is undergoing pelvic surgery for another reason.
The practice would apply to women, trans men or nonbinary people at average risk who don’t plan to have any or additional children. The fallopian tubes are hollow structures that allow eggs to travel from the ovaries to the uterus.
The guidance to remove them, included in a new consensus statement from the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, is not entirely new — it reflects conversations many doctors already have with their patients and mirrors guidelines from at least two medical groups.
But the advice is certain to draw increased attention to fallopian tube removal as a way to lower ovarian cancer risk.
A new foundation called Break Through Cancer, which is funding research at five leading U.S. cancer centers to study four intractable cancers, including of the ovary, is sponsoring a project to encourage general surgeons to consider removing fallopian tubes in women past childbearing age while operating elsewhere in the abdomen. This could include gallbladder or bladder surgery, hernia repair, or appendectomy.
“What this project is promoting is that there are a lot of women who are undergoing surgeries where removing fallopian tubes could be done at very little risk,” said Tyler Jacks, Break Through Cancer’s president who is the founding director of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.
After women are beyond the point of becoming pregnant, “Fallopian tubes are vestigial,” Jacks said. The project “is trying to make the case this is a safe thing to do [and], would have clear medical benefit” in lowering the risk of ovarian cancer.