Both chemoprevention and prophylactic surgery have been explored as methods of preventing ovarian cancer. Chemoprevention involves the use of drugs, vitamins, or other agents to avert or delay the development of or recurrence of a malignancy. Prophylactic surgery is performed to remove a normal-appearing organ in order to prevent the future development of a primary cancer from that particular site. These preventive pathways may be pursued in the general population or specifically in patients with a high risk of developing ovarian malignancies.
To determine the appropriateness of preventive therapies, the benefits of avoiding malignancy in individual members of a population must be weighed against the costs of treatment to the entire population. The impact of averting a cancer event in part depends on the type of malignancy. Ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage and is usually associated with worse overall survival than malignancies such as cervical cancer, for which an effective screening test exists. Despite the poor outcome associated with ovarian cancer, the physical, emotional, and economic costs of prevention to the whole population must be considered, especially given the low incidence of this malignancy. The tolerance for adverse effects associated with prevention decreases as the incidence and aggressiveness of the malignancy decrease.
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