Health Minute

Am I at risk for ovarian cancer?
My aunt was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Does this mean that I’m more at risk for being diagnosed, as well?



If women in your family have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you are more at risk for the disease. Like other health problems or conditions, it doesn’t mean you will definitely be diagnosed, but it does mean you should be keeping an eye out for symptoms and communicate this family history to your doctor.

David Holtz, MD Gynecological Oncologist Lankenau Medical Center


If you are at a higher risk for ovarian cancer, genetic testing may be an option for you. Genetic testing can help you determine what your risk is for cancer, and whether you are at a very high risk or not. If testing does determine you to be at a high risk, your doctor may perform certain procedures to monitor your gynecological health. An annual pelvic examination is important in the detection of abnormalities, and medical guidelines indicate that ultrasound and CA-125 testing are reasonable but have not been proven to detect early ovarian cancer.

Oral contraceptives can decrease your risk for ovarian cancer. Women who have taken oral contraceptives for 10 or more years have decreased their risk of ovarian cancer by 70 percent. Before making the decision to take an oral contraceptive, it is important to consult with your physician first. For women who have a genetic abnormality (BRCA mutation), removal of the tubes and ovaries can decrease the risk of dying from ovarian cancer. The best prevention is awareness and understanding your risk factors. Besides family history, other risk factors include a previous breast cancer diagnosis, increasing age, never having been pregnant, and history of infertility. If you fall into any of these categories, make your doctor aware.


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Disclaimer- The information provided is for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis. We urge you to discuss any current health related problems you are experiencing, or any questions or concerns you may have about your health, with a healthcare professional. The views expressed are that of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Main Line Health, Inc. or its subsidiaries. Membership on the medical staff of Main Line Hospitals does not constitute employment or agency relationship.

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