Who Needs Fallopian Tubes Anyway?

Illustration for article titled Who Needs Fallopian Tubes Anyway?

If you're wont to think about your reproductive system, usually you're thinking about your eggs (they're dyyyyying, after all) than about your fallopian tubes. But maybe we should start, because some doctors are suggesting women start thinking about removing them — not just having the tubes tied — when they're done having kids (or if they don't want kids at all). You know, just chuck it.


It seems like an unusual move, but in this case it might be worth considering since new research suggests that it's our tubes—those quiet, unassuming little buggers—that are actually the source of some of the most deadly kinds of ovarian cancers. To be clear, it's not like doctors are suggesting we all rush to have them removed just for fun. Instead, it's being proposed that instead of having their tubes tied to prevent further pregnancies, women simply have them removed. In addition, if a woman done with childbearing is planning on undergoing any other kind of abdominal surgery, they might take out her tubes while they're in there—killing two birds, er, tubes, with one stone. Apparently, doctors in Canada already routinely discuss taking them out with women who are scheduled for other types of pelvic or abdominal surgery.

So why are we suddenly worried that our heretofore harmless tubes are, in fact, little harbors for cancer? Well, it seems that research in the md-2000s began to show that early cancers were often visible in the fallopian tubes but not in the ovaries. Subsequent research found that normal fallopian tube cells could evolve into into invasive cancers, and studies have now shown that between 50 and 84 percent of "high-grade serious tumors" originate in the tubes. Scary!

Of course, whether or not you want to excise a part of your anatomy preventatively depends on your personal risk of developing ovarian cancer. Women with particularly high risk, such as those with the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes, are already having their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed preventatively. However, doctors are now questioning whether they may only need to remove the tubes, leaving the ovaries intact, which would prevent these women from being sent into early menopause—something which carries its own health risks.

But even for the general population of women who carry no particular risk of ovarian cancer, removing the tubes once they're done bearing children is being recommended with increasing frequency. Then once they've made it through menopause, it's considered even safer to remove both the ovaries and tubes. Naturally, messing around surgically in one's abdomen is not without its own risks. The main concern is that taking out the tubes can cut off the blood supply to the ovaries, which doesn't sound too pleasant. Though having ovarian cancer certainly isn't too good for your ovaries either.

So far, the decision to take out your tubes and/or ovaries is based on your particular risk and willingness to futz around with what mother nature gave you. But researchers and physicians are becoming increasingly aware of the role of the fallopian tubes in cancer development, and, as such, they're likely to start recommending removing them with increasing frequency.

This anti-fallopian tube movement could have a big impact. Dr. Jessica McAlpine, a gynecologic oncologist at Vancouver General Hospital, recently analyzed data on ovarian cancer cases in British Columbia and concluded that 40 percent of ovarian cancers could have been prevented had the fallopian tubes been removed from everyone with BRCA mutations and those who were getting hysterectomies or getting their tubes tied anyway. That's impressive, though a clinical trial is needed to get more firm and reliable data. But in the meantime it's something to consider carefully. Dr. Robert Burger, of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said of the procedure,

To add a minimal-risk surgery to an operation that's already being performed — to me, it's a no-brainer. And most women have no idea about this.


Well, now you know. So you won't be surprised, if at some point in the future, your doctor mentions taking out your fallopian tubes with the same casual air that he might mention removing your tonsils or wisdom teeth.

Fallopian Tube Removal May Lower Risk of Deadly Ovarian Cancer [MyHealthNewsDaily]


Image via Oguz Aral/Shutterstock.



stop me if this is a stupid question, please: suppose, as this article suggests, you get your fallopian tubes removed but not your ovaries and uterus. What happens to the ovaries? Do they float around?? Can they travel? I mean I thought the fallopian tubes held the ovaries in place. The uterus should be find because its held and supported by the cervix, right?....yeah, anatomy isn't my strong suit.