Genetic Counseling is a process during which a genetic counselor or other appropriate medical professional will ask a series of questions about you and your family’s cancer history as well as your heritage. This information will be used to assist the genetic counselor in determining if you may be at increased risk of ovarian and related cancers. If you have a personal or family history of cancer, undergoing genetic counseling can be helpful and informative in choosing whether to pursue genetic testing.
Genetic Testing is a process in which a blood test may help to determine if you or your family members are at very high risk of ovarian and related cancers. The blood test looks to see if you are carrying a gene change passed down to you by one of your parents that causes a very high risk of cancer. Everyone carries thousands of genes. However, some people carry gene changes that have a high risk of causing cancer. The different genes that can carry changes that cause a very high risk of ovarian cancer are:
Women who carry a change in one of these genes have up to a 60% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer and up to an 85% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. These cancers can also occur at ages much earlier than seen in the general population with some breast cancers being seen as early as the mid-20’s.
Women who carry a change in one of these genes (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome) have 9-12% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer. Women with changes in these genes also have up to a 60% lifetime risk of both uterine and colon cancer. Similar to BRCA1 and BRCA2, changes in these genes can cause very early onset cancers, with some of the cancers occurring as early as age 25. Importantly, changes in these genes can be inherited from either a mother or a father. While most of the cancers associated with changes in these genes only occur in women, men with changes in these genes can also be at increased risk of developing certain cancers. For this reason, men whose family history meets any of the increased risk criteria outlined previously are encouraged to talk with their doctors.
Reproduced with permission from Project Hope for Ovarian Cancer Research and Education.
© 2009 Gynecologic Cancer Foundation and Project Hope for Ovarian Cancer and Education. All rights reserved.