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Unfortunately, an effective screening strategy for the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer does not exist. The best way you can protect yourself from ovarian cancer is to be aware of what makes you more likely to get it. These are called your risk factors. Researchers keep looking at new tests that may allow doctors to screen for ovarian cancer before it causes symptoms. If you are concerned about your family's history of breast or ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor about formal genetic counseling.
If you are concerned about your risk for developing ovarian cancer, talk with your health care provider about possible strategies to help decrease your risk. Such strategies may include:
Oral contraceptives. Also known as birth control pills, these drugs may lower a woman's risk for some types of ovarian cancer. Women who take oral contraceptives for five years or more have about half the risk of getting ovarian cancer as women who never used them. But birth control pills can increase the risk for blood clots and stroke and can have other side effects. Talk to your gynecologist to see if you may be a candidadte for oral contraceptives.
Gynecologic surgery. Having the uterus removed, especially if the ovaries are removed at the same time, reduces a woman's risk of ovarian cancer. Having a tubal ligation (getting your "tubes tied") may decrease the risk for ovarian cancer as well. These are invasive surgeries, though, and should generally not be done only to reduce the risk for ovarian cancer. However, if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer with a certain genetic mutation that puts you at high risk for these cancers, then your doctor may want to discuss having surgery to remove the ovaries to lower your risk.
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