Ahead of World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8th, learn the key strategies for ovarian cancer prevention and screening.
Of people who have ovaries, about one out of 75 will eventually get diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This incredibly serious kind of cancer can be fatal if it’s not caught early. However, it’s often difficult to catch the early signs.
That’s why ovarian cancer prevention is so important. While you can’t eliminate your risk entirely, you can take some steps toward preventing it.
Wondering how to prevent ovarian cancer? We’ll help you get started with this easy guide — keep reading for the essential strategies that will reduce your risk.
Know Your Risk Factor
One of the best ways to know how to reduce risk of ovarian cancer is to understand just how at-risk you are.
Different factors make some people more likely to get ovarian cancer than others. For example, if you have a family history of ovarian cancer (or any cancer), your risk is greater. It’s possible to inherit genes that make various types of cancer more likely.
Some genetic conditions can also make ovarian cancer more likely. For example, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, Lynch syndrome, and other syndromes have been linked to this kind of cancer.
You’ll need to talk to your doctor to figure out your risk factor. They’ll ask about your family history and other relevant questions, so you can figure out the best prevention approach for your situation.
Being at risk for ovarian cancer doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but it does mean you should invest in prevention more.
Get Screening Tests
Not everyone will need screening tests for ovarian cancer. But if you’re high-risk, your doctor might suggest that you get screened.
A screening test doesn’t mean you already have cancer symptoms. Instead, it means your doctor wants to find cancer before you experience any symptoms at all. This early detection can help save your life.
Again, talk to your doctor to help you decide if screening is right for you. They can also recommend the right kind of test for your needs.
Take Oral Birth Control
Did you know that being on birth control actually makes you less likely to get ovarian cancer?
Your ovaries make follicles once a month. However, the work of making follicles also makes developing ovarian cancer more likely. Hormonal birth control (or “the pill”) blocks your ovaries from making follicles, so your cancer risk becomes lower.
Your doctor can help you decide if birth control is the right cancer prevention method for you. However, not all birth control methods help prevent cancer — IUDs actually increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
Surgery isn’t recommended for all women. But if you have other medical needs that require a hysterectomy or a similar surgery, and you’re at risk for ovarian cancer, you might want to get your ovaries removed.
Surgery is a bit too extreme to be used for ovarian cancer prevention alone. However, many other medical conditions can make surgery the best option, and while you’re at it, you can take steps to reduce your cancer risk.
Removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes, along with the uterus, will help prevent cancer from developing there. But there are other side effects of ovary removal, so you’ll want to carefully discuss this option with a medical professional first.
Tubal litigation (or “getting your tubes tied”) is a less-invasive option that can also help reduce your risk. If you’re not planning to have children (or are already done having them), this is a risk-reducing option to discuss with your doctor.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating healthy and staying at a good weight will help anyone with the prevention of ovarian cancer.
Of course, these strategies are valuable for preventing lots of other medical problems, too. Just follow the general health guidelines you probably already know. Eat vegetables and fruits often, keep red meat consumption to a minimum, and try to maintain an active lifestyle.
Heavy alcohol use can also increase your risk of various types of cancer. If you tend to drink a lot, look for ways to cut back (this can also help you stay at a healthier weight).
Consider When You Give Birth
There are lots of factors that can influence your decision to have kids. Preventing ovarian cancer definitely shouldn’t be the main one. Still, it’s helpful to understand just how giving birth can impact your risk.
For the most part, having given birth puts you at lower risk of ovarian cancer. However, that risk is reduced even further for people who gave birth before age 30.
Breastfeeding can also help reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, at least by a small amount.
Pay Attention as You Age
Did you know that age is another risk factor?
Once you go through menopause, or reach age 50, your risk becomes higher. As you get older, it becomes even more important to have regular medical checkups and cancer screenings as recommended by your doctor.
While it’s tempting to get hormone replacement therapy after menopause, this can also increase your risk factor.
Smoking puts you at higher risk for lots of cancer types, including ovarian cancer. Quitting is always a good way to stay healthier.
No matter how long you’ve been smoking, the sooner you quit, the better. And if quitting doesn’t seem realistic, you can at least cut back.
Understand Your Fertility
Even if you don’t plan on having children, being infertile can increase your risk of cancer. It’s a good idea to find out whether or not you are.
Your Healthcare Professional Can Help with Ovarian Cancer Prevention
Almost all of these ovarian cancer prevention tips involve one important step: talking to your doctor.
Without a healthcare professional on your side, you can’t make the best decisions for your cancer prevention needs. Looking for a great physician network? Learn more about us here!