How Can I Prevent Ovarian Cancer?

Unfortunately, doctors don't have a way to screen for ovarian cancer so it can be caught early. The best way you can protect yourself from ovarian cancer is to know 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 with your doctor about genetic counseling.

If you are concerned about your risk for developing ovarian cancer, talk with your health care provider about possible ways to help lower your risk. Such steps may include: 

  • Oral contraceptives. These are also called birth control pills. These drugs may lower your risk for some types of ovarian cancer. Women who take oral contraceptives for 5 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 with your gynecologist to see if you should take birth control pills.

  • Gynecologic surgery. Having your uterus and ovaries removed will reduce your risk  for ovarian cancer. Getting your tubes tied (tubal ligation) may also lower your risk for ovarian cancer. These are surgeries, though. They should not be done only to reduce the risk for ovarian cancer. But if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer that puts you at high risk for these cancers, your doctor may want to discuss having surgery to remove the ovaries to lower your risk.