The National Cancer Institute estimates that a woman who has an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene has an increased lifetime risk of ovarian cancer – roughly 16 to 60 percent versus 1.7 percent for a woman in the general population.
When Should I Suspect an Ovarian Cancer May Be Hereditary?
When ovarian cancer is caused by a single gene mutation passed through the family you may see:
- Ovarian cancer diagnosed at an early age (e.g. under 50)
- Ovarian cancer and Ashkenazi ancestry
- Multiple family members (blood relatives on the same side of the family) with breast and/or ovarian cancer
- Certain combinations of related cancers (breast and ovary, colon and uterus)
- An individual with two or more primary cancers, especially breast and ovarian cancer or colon and uterine in the same individual
- Rare tumor types (e.g. fallopian tube cancer, primary peritoneal cancer)
These features are only guidelines for assessing the risk for hereditary cancers. When these factors combine with a pattern in the family history that is recognizable to your physician or genetic counselor, it may indicate a hereditary risk for cancer. Ovarian, breast, and colon cancers are the most common types of cancer that have been linked to specific genes
Is There A Test To Determine If Ovarian Cancer Is Hereditary?
Genetic testing is available for hereditary ovarian cancer syndromes. The family history, ages at diagnosis and cancer types in a family are used to determine the likelihood of a hereditary cancer syndrome and, if a syndrome is suspected, which gene(s) should be analyzed.
It is generally most informative if a relative who has had cancer is tested first, to determine if an identifiable gene mutation exists in the family. If a mutation is identified in an affected relative, at-risk family members may elect to be tested for the familial mutation; those testing positive have a significantly increased risk of developing cancer, while those relatives testing negative may be told that they have the general population risk of developing cancer.
What should I do now?
Please use this section as background education. It is not a substitute for a clinical visit to our Center or discussion of a possible hereditary condition with your physician.
- Take the next 10 to 20 minutes to fill out the online MyGenerations for an initial evaluation of your risk of ovarian cancer.
- Make an appointment with your physician to discuss your risk of cancer.
- Make an appointment with the Center for Medical Genetics by calling 847.570.1029.
- Email this page to a friend or loved one that may be at risk.