There is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, but your level of risk may be reduced by:

  • Having both ovaries removed; this procedure, called an oophorectomy, is done only for women who have an extremely high risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Using oral contraceptives for a total of five years can decrease your risk by as much as 60 percent.
  • Bearing one or more children, particularly if the first is born before age 30, plus breastfeeding, may decrease your risk.
  • Tubal ligation, a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are tied to prevent pregnancy, may be beneficial. However, this procedure does not prevent all or even most cases of ovarian cancer, and therefore should only be done for valid medical reasons, and not solely to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
  • A hysterectomy, an operation in which your uterus is removed, may be beneficial. However, you should not have a hysterectomy exclusively to avoid ovarian cancer risk. If one is being performed for other medical reasons and you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer or are over age 40, you should discuss concurrent ovary removal with your health care professional.

Finally, some research has shown a potential association between exposure to talc powders in the genital area and frequent douching with a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Research and New Treatments for Ovarian Cancer on the Horizon

Bone marrow transplantation is a type of treatment that is being studied in clinical trials. Sometimes ovarian cancer becomes resistant to treatment with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Very high doses of chemotherapy may then be used to treat the cancer. Because the high doses of chemotherapy can destroy the bone marrow, marrow is taken from the bones before treatment. The marrow is then frozen and the patient is given high-dose chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy to treat the cancer. The marrow that was taken out is then thawed and given back to the patient through a needle inserted into a vein to replace the marrow that was destroyed. This type of transplant is called an autologous transplant.

Prostasin, a protein found in men's prostates, is over-expressed in the epithelial ovarian tumors of women. The new finding, published in the October 1, 2001 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, shows that prostatin is a potential molecular marker for ovarian cancer.

Anti-cancer antibodies are being studied as a way to alert and mobilize the body's immune system to attack and destroy cancerous cells. OvaRex® "monoclonal" antibody, for example, binds to the tumor associated protein CA 125 and is in the final stages of clinical evaluation for ovarian cancer. In a related approach, scientists at the biotechnology company Immungen are attaching anti-cancer drugs to antibodies that deliver their potent payload precisely to their target, thus allowing the attached cytoyoxic drugs to kill cancer cells with minimal harm to healthy tissue.

A new type of cancer drug is showing promise in treating advanced stage ovarian cancer patients who were not responsive to taxane and/or platinum agents. This new drug, Tarceva, interfere with the EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) protein, a major factor in the growth and survival of cancerous tumor cells. Results from a Phase II trial indicate significant evidence of anti-cancer activity and disease stabilization in women who participated in the study.

Angiogenesis inhibitors work by blocking the development of new blood vessels to tumors, thereby choking off the blood supply necessary for growth. Clinical trials studying one such experimental drug, IM862, are showing increased survival benefit in patients with recurrent ovarian cancer. Another drug, SU5416, is undergoing evaluation against solid ovarian tumors in combination with chemotherapy.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC).