Genetic testing is the latest buzzword in healthcare, but do you know what it means and everything it can do? This technology can help determine the risk for certain cancers. The role of genetics in determining a woman’s risk of breast cancer for example is now widely known, as Angelina Jolie took preventative measures when she found out she was at increased risk. However, what some may not know is genes also play an important role in ovarian cancer.
Nearly a quarter of ovarian cancer cases are caused by hereditary conditions, and most due to a BRCA gene mutation. The disease is also difficult to detect and is often misdiagnosed, making it all the more important that women know their BRCA status.
A doctor can determine whether you are eligible for genetic counselling or testing, which can help in making informed health decisions.
“Up to 60 per cent of women with a BRCA gene mutation will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” says Dr. Diane Provencher, gynecologic oncologist at the Centre Hospitalier de Université de Montréal. “And of those diagnosed, 55 per cent will die within five years. Genetic testing helps us to understand and guide treatment options. In fact, new treatments are available to target BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer more effectively, providing patients and their families with more hope.”
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest women’s cancer, with around 2,800 Canadians diagnosed every year. There is currently no reliable screening test or vaccine to prevent the disease, which is why it’s critical for women to know their risk and if they’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, find out their BRCA status.
Because a BRCA mutation is inherited and can cause ovarian, breast, endometrial, or colorectal cancer, women with a family history of these diseases are more at risk. It also means that if you have ovarian cancer, knowing your BRCA status could help your family members know their own risk.
Genetic testing is a powerful tool in the fight against ovarian cancer and new treatments are helping to fight the disease. If you think your family history might put you at risk, talk to your doctor to find out if genetic testing is appropriate for you. Find more information at ovariancanada.org.