Next month is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, putting the spotlight on a disease that affects around 7,500 women every year. Family health history and genetics play a big part in a woman’s risk of getting ovarian or breast cancer.
If more than one relative has had ovarian or breast cancer, before the age of 50, you are at much higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. But, how do you know for certain if you’ve inherited a faulty gene? How accurate are genetic tests for hereditary cancer? And, if you know that you have inherited a faulty gene, what next?
Your risk of developing ovarian cancer
A family history of ovarian or breast cancer can be challenging to deal with. Women have a 2% chance of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime, but inheriting the BRCA1/2 gene mutation increases the risk of getting ovarian cancer to 65%.
But most women that are identified as high risk based on family health history, do not have the BRCA gene mutation. So, there are other factors that can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer.
The main factors that contribute to a higher risk of ovarian cancer include:
- Family: close family members on either side have had ovarian cancer.
- Age: 84% of cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50.
- Genetic mutation: a BRCA1/2 gene mutation, or one associated with Lynch syndrome.
- Menstrual history: a longer menstrual history e.g., starting your periods earlier or reaching menopause later.
- Endometriosis: women who have endometriosis are at increased risk
Testing for hereditary cancer
There are several different types of ovarian cancer depending on the type of cell and tissue the cancer starts in. The only way to be certain is by having a genetic test. This will highlight specific gene mutations with a high level of accuracy. At the Wessex Private GP, we offer genetic testing with Myogenes state-of-the-art testing, that gives 99.99% accuracy and checks across 61 genes associated with hereditary cancers. Knowing that you have a gene mutation will enable you and your physician to be proactive with your health – including having regular blood screening checks or preventative medication that is specific to you.
New research has shown that early monitoring of women with the BRCA gene is essential for early detection of ovarian cancer. If screening begins early, there is a higher chance of catching cancer in the early stages and treating it effectively.
Of course, genetic testing will not find causes for all inherited breast and ovarian cancers. Keeping a healthy weight, having a balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and making healthy lifestyle choices will all help to lower your risk.
If you have any concerns about ovarian cancer, or if you would like to be referred for a hereditary cancer test, the Wessex Private GP can help. Get in touch to make an appointment with Dr Charlie Middle and to find out more.