What are ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer?

KEY POINTS

Ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancers are diseases in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or peritoneum.
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer of the female reproductive system.

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Ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancers are diseases in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or peritoneum.

The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries make eggs and female hormones (chemicals that control the way certain cells or organs work in the body).

The fallopian tubes are a pair of long, slender tubes, one on each side of the uterus. Eggs pass from the ovaries, through the fallopian tubes, to the uterus. Cancer sometimes begins at the end of the fallopian tube near the ovary and spreads to the ovary.

The peritoneum is the tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers organs in the abdomen. Primary peritoneal cancer is cancer that forms in the peritoneum and has not spread there from another part of the body. Cancer sometimes begins in the peritoneum and spreads to the ovary.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer of the female reproductive system.

Ovarian cancer is most common in postmenopausal women. New cases of ovarian cancer and deaths from ovarian cancer are higher among white women than black women, but have decreased in both groups.

Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer and/or certain inherited gene changes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene changes, have a higher risk than women who do not have a family history or who have not inherited these gene changes. For women with inherited risk, genetic counseling and genetic testing can be used to find out more about how likely they are to develop ovarian cancer.

It is hard to find ovarian cancer early. Early ovarian cancer may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, ovarian cancer is often advanced.

Ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer prevention

Key points of Ovarian, Fallopian Tube, and Primary Peritoneal cancer prevention are:

  • Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.
  • The following are risk factors for ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer:
    • Personal history of breast cancer
    • Family history of ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer
    • Inherited risk
    • Hormone replacement therapy
    • Weight and height
    • Endometriosis
  • The following are protective factors for ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer:
    • Oral contraceptives
    • Tubal ligation
    • Giving birth
    • Salpingectomy
    • Breastfeeding
    • Risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy
  • It is not clear whether the following affect the risk of ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer:
    • Diet
    • Alcohol
    • Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Talc
    • Infertility treatment
    • Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways to prevent cancer.
    • New ways to prevent ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer are being studied in clinical trials.

Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.

Avoiding cancer risk factors may help prevent certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.

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