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Hereditary Cancer Info > Risk Management > Surgical Removal of Ovaries & Tubes

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Surgical Removal of Ovaries & Tubes

Learn about the steps that people at high risk for cancer can take to manage their risk and protect their health.

Salpingectomy - removal of fallopian tubes only

Emerging research suggests that the fallopian tubes may be the source of many hereditary ovarian cancers. This has led researchers to study if premenopausal women could remove their fallopian tubes and delay ovarian removal until after menopause. Several pieces of evidence point to ovarian cancers starting in the fallopian tubes:

  • Researchers established early on that fallopian tube cancer—which is rare in the general population—is more common in women with BRCA mutations. 
  • Careful examination of the fallopian tubes from research studies such as GOG-0199 led to the discovery of precancerous fallopian tube changes called “serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma “ (STIC) lesions. These STIC lesions found in fallopian tubes appear to be “precursor” lesions that will develop over time into ovarian cancers. No similar lesions have been found in the ovaries of high-risk women.
  • STIC lesions have similar gene profiles as serous ovarian cancers.
  • As many as 50% of women with BRCA mutations who have ovarian cancer also have lesions in their fallopian tube.
  • Preliminary studies in cancer-prone mice show that removal of fallopian tubes prevents high-grade serous carcinoma of the ovaries—the type that women with BRCA mutations are most likely to get.

Even if the fallopian tubes are the cause of many gynecologic cancers in mutation carriers, researchers caution that there is not enough evidence to suggest that all of these ovarian cancer start in the fallopian tubes. Also removing just the fallopian tubes is not likely to lower the risk for breast cancer. More research is needed to completely understand the role of the fallopian tubes in the development of these cancers. A national research study called the WISP Study is looking at outcomes for high-risk women who remove their fallopian tubes only, followed later by removal of the ovaries. 

Tubal ligation, also known as “tying your tubes” seals the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from reaching the uterus. Some experts believe this may lower ovarian cancer risk. However, national guidelines recommend that women at high risk for ovarian cancer due to BRCA mutations have their ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed by age 35-40 or after the completion of child bearing. 


Updated 02/28/2018

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