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Women who are at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer because of their family history are encouraged to make decisions about the medical management of their cancer risk. Using data collected during interviews with 49 high-risk premenopausal women, this article looks at some of the influences on women's risk-management choices. When describing their attitudes about preventative ovarian surgery, high-risk women draw upon discourses of control. Prophylactic surgery is constructed as both providing women with the means to gain control over their bodies, and as leading to a loss of control. More specifically, women perceive the removal of at-risk organs as both securing and undermining their present and future self-identities. Thus, it is argued that women's willingness to undergo prophylactic ovarian surgery is dependent upon them negotiating various competing risks to self and body that are associated with this risk-management option.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





423 - 443