Opportunistic salpingectomy is a preventive surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes the fallopian tubes to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Research is ongoing, but many experts believe removing the fallopian tubes benefits people at average risk of developing ovarian cancer who are already undergoing a pelvic procedure such as a hysterectomy.
This article explains why someone may consider opportunistic salpingectomy (OS), how the procedure affects fertility, what to expect during recovery, and more.
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Removing the fallopian tubes may help prevent ovarian cancer in some people.
Does it entirely reduce the risk of ovarian cancer?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), OS can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer but does not entirely eliminate it.
The researchers found that there were significantly fewer cases of serous and epithelial ovarian cancer in the group who had an OS.
Although there was an 18% reduction in risk, the researchers determined it was not significant enough to suggest an association between OS and ovarian cancer risk.
Research is evolving, and someone concerned about preventing ovarian cancer can talk with their doctor about the most up-to-date information and how it applies to them.
Doctors may recommend OS alongside other gynecological or obstetric surgeries. This means whether a surgeon removes the fallopian tubes laparoscopically or during open surgery depends largely on the other procedure.
Once the person is under anesthesia, a surgeon will locate, detach, and remove the fallopian tubes.
Learn more with our guide to salpingectomy.
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Someone with a high risk of developing ovarian cancer would likely be a candidate for other procedures.
Following OS, a person can expect some pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort. This is typically temporary and manageable with over-the-counter or prescription pain medications. Recovery time varies, and a person may need to take some time off work.
OS by itself has no effect on hormone production or menstruation, so regular periods should resume. Additionally, the surgery provides immediate protection against pregnancy, though it is advisable to abstain from sex until a doctor determines it is safe.
How does it affect fertility?
Removing both fallopian tubes is a form of permanent contraception.
The fallopian tubes are an essential part of the reproductive system, as they transport eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Without fallopian tubes, eggs cannot meet sperm for fertilization.
Does it stop periods?
The fallopian tubes play a role in transporting eggs from the ovaries to the uterus for potential fertilization. However, they are not directly involved in regulating the menstrual cycle or influencing the occurrence of periods.
Removing the fallopian tubes will not affect the menstrual cycle, and individuals will continue to have their regular menstrual periods as long as their ovaries, uterus, and hormonal systems are intact and functioning.
Does removing the fallopian tubes cause early menopause or other hormonal changes?
No, OS does not cause menopause or other hormonal changes. Fallopian tubes do not play a role in hormonal processes.
Someone considering OS may wish to ask their doctor some version of the following questions:
- What are the potential benefits and risks of removing my fallopian tubes to help prevent ovarian cancer, and is this procedure the best option for me, given my medical history and risk factors?
- How will the removal of my fallopian tubes affect my fertility and reproductive options if I decide to have children in the future?
- What are the potential side effects or complications associated with OS, and what is the expected recovery time?
- Should I also consider removing my ovaries for additional cancer risk reduction? What are the implications of surgical menopause if a surgeon removes my ovaries?
- Are there any long-term health considerations or lifestyle changes I should be aware of after removing my fallopian tubes, and will I need regular follow-up care or monitoring?
The following are some frequently asked questions about OS and ovarian cancer.
What happens to the ovaries after fallopian tube removal?
The ovaries remain in place if a doctor removes the fallopian tubes. Removing the fallopian tubes has no effect on the ovaries other than stopping eggs from traveling to the uterus.
Learn more about the female reproductive system, including its anatomy.
What are the warning signs of ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer symptoms can include:
- abdominal or back pain
- pelvic pain or pressure
- difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- changes in bathroom habits, such as constipation or more frequent or urgent need to urinate
- vaginal bleeding
Not everyone will experience symptoms of ovarian cancer in the early stages, and some people may confuse them with other conditions.
Learn more with our guide to the first symptoms of ovarian cancer.
How do doctors diagnose ovarian cancer?
Typically, diagnosing ovarian cancer involves a combination of medical evaluations and diagnostic tests.
First, a doctor will conduct a physical examination and talk with the person about their medical and family history in order to assess the person’s symptoms and risk factors for ovarian cancer.
Learn more about how doctors diagnose ovarian cancer.
How do doctors treat ovarian cancer?
Treatment for ovarian cancer depends on various factors, including the cancer stage and type and the person’s overall health.
The primary approaches to treating ovarian cancer typically involve local treatments such as surgery and systemic treatments, including chemotherapy.
Learn more about treatment for ovarian cancer.
Removing the fallopian tubes is a proactive surgical approach designed to lower the risk of ovarian cancer.
The rationale behind this procedure is the theory that because many ovarian cancers begin in the fallopian tubes, removing them may stop cancer development and metastasis to the ovaries.
Ongoing research supports the recommendation for individuals at an average risk of developing ovarian cancer, especially when they are already undergoing pelvic procedures such as a hysterectomy, as the procedure can provide additional protective benefits.