Risk Reduction Surgery

If you have a high risk for developing gynecologic cancer, your health care team may suggest that you consider surgery to reduce that risk. You will want to discuss the pluses and minuses of risk reduction surgery with your gynecologic oncologist.One form of risk reduction surgery is the removal of pre-cancerous tissue from an effected reproductive organ, or by having the entire organ removed. In some cases, removing the uterus and other reproductive organs is a risk reduction procedure.

An example of a public figure who took action to save her life is Angelina Jolie, an Academy Award winning actor. Based on her family history of breast and ovarian cancers, genetic testing, and her own symptoms, Jolie had a double mastectomy, and her ovaries removed. Most agree that publicizing her decision highlights the value of genetic testing and risk reduction surgery, making it a more open topic of discussion for women and their doctors.

We mention Angelina Jolie’s case to underscore the importance of knowing your family history, having genetic counseling and testing, and getting screened for cancers based on your personal situation. Additional points of view on Jolie’s surgeries are also interesting to consider.

Risk Reduction Surgical Procedures

Depending on your level of risk for gynecologic cancers, your medical team may recommend that you have one of the following types of risk-reduction surgery:

  • Hysterectomy—removal of the uterus. A hysterectomy may include removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and cervix. A partial hysterectomy—leaves part of the uterus and the cervix in place
  • Salpingo-oophorectomy—removal of one fallopian tube and one ovary
    • Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy—the removal of both fallopian tubes and both ovaries

Removing reproductive tissue and organs can drastically reduce your risk of gynecologic cancers.