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Know Your Genes: Genetic Testing and Ovarian Cancer Risk

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Recent advancements in medical science have made it possible to be tested for genetic factors that could indicate an increase in your risk of certain cancers. While having this type of knowledge may seem overwhelming, it could allow you to take a proactive approach against otherwise hard-to-treat conditions, like ovarian cancer.

Here are some considerations to help you make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue genetic testing.

What Is Genetic Testing for Ovarian Cancer Risk?

To help determine your odds of getting ovarian cancer, medical professionals can now order a lab panel known as the BRCA gene test. The test is typically performed via blood draw, though a saliva test can sometimes be used. Regardless of the method, the test is run to examine your DNA for mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. While these genes normally offer protection against breast or ovarian cancers, variants in them — which are typically hereditary — can prevent them from working properly.

In addition to the BRCA genetic mutations, there are other genes associated with a higher risk of ovarian cancer, including RAD51C, RAD51D, STK11, ATM, and BRIP1.

Who Should Be Tested for Ovarian Cancer Risk?

Women with a family history of ovarian cancer are the most likely candidates to be offered genetic testing. Because only 1.2% of women will get ovarian cancer in their lifetime, the test isn’t typically available to the public. But the test is useful for those who fit the profile, as up to 40% of women with a harmful BRCA1 variant and 15% of women with a BRCA2 variant are predicted to get ovarian cancer by the time they reach 80 years old.

Candidacy for genetic testing for ovarian cancer risk is determined on a patient-by-patient basis. Aside from having a family history of ovarian cancer, some other factors that may make you a candidate for testing include:

  • Being diagnosed with at least two other types of cancer
  • Having a relative with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 variant
  • Having Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that increases ovarian cancer risk
  • Being of Ashkenazi (or Eastern European) Jewish descent, as genetic variants are common among this population

What Does It Mean If You Have a Higher Risk of Ovarian Cancer?

Having any of these genetic risk factors, or even receiving a positive test result, won’t necessarily mean you’ll be diagnosed with ovarian cancer during your lifetime. Instead, knowledge empowers you and your doctors to take a more watchful approach to your health, and potentially discuss preventive measures.

As your partners in total wellness for life, SouthCoast Health is here to help you make informed care decisions. In addition to preventive care such as physicals and vaccinations, our team also offers specialized care including lab services and imaging. See our full list of care services online or call 912-691-3600 to schedule an appointment.

Whether you are looking for a primary care doctor or a pediatrician, or another medical specialist, SouthCoast Health has you covered with its wide range of world-class healthcare services, available throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. SouthCoast Health has 120 physicians and medical professionals in 18 locations in Savannah, Richmond Hill, Pooler, Rincon, Baxley, Hilton Head, Hinesville, and Statesboro. SouthCoast Health offers comprehensive medical services including: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Allergy and Asthma, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Eye Care, Imaging, Infectious Diseases, Nephrology, Neurology, Physical Therapy, Podiatry, Surgery, Clinical Trial Research Studies, Diabetic Self-Management Training Sessions, Dietetic Counseling, Laboratory Services, Massage Therapy, Optical Shop, Pharmacy, and Urgent Care.

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