Fight Ovarian Cancer with Genetics
Genetics provides you and your healthcare provider with crucial information when making treatment decisions regarding your ovarian cancer. 1 in 4 women with ovarian cancer will test positive to having a genetic mutation.1-3 All women with ovarian cancer are highly recommended to receive genetic testing.
Knowing this information will not only guide treatment decisions, it will also inform you if you are at an elevated risk for additional cancers such as breast cancer, or if your family has an elevated risk for cancer and what preventative actions they can take.
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Myriad Oncology's Tests for Ovarian Cancer and What Answers They Provide:
Hereditary cancer testing
BRCA Testing - to help determine which patients may be appropriate for targeted therapy
Hereditary cancer risk associated with ovarian cancer
Up to 1 in 4 incidences of ovarian cancer are due to hereditary causes.4 By knowing your genetic risk factors, your doctor can better treat your ovarian cancer.
If your cancer was caused by a mutation, your children and siblings have a 50% chance of having that same mutation. Genetic testing helps identify which family members have inherited these mutations. Individuals with an identified hereditary cancer risk have up to a 63% lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer.5 They are also at a much higher risk of developing other cancers, such as breast and pancreatic cancer, than the general public.
To see if genetic testing will benefit you, take The Hereditary Cancer Quiz.
What is ovarian cancer?6
Ovaries are reproductive glands found in women, which are the main source of female hormones and an extremely important part of a woman’s health. Abnormal cell growth within the ovaries is called ovarian cancer. An estimated 1 in 78 women will develop ovarian cancer during their lifetime.
This cancer mainly develops in older women. About half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years or older. The American Cancer Society has estimated that over 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed this year. Fortunately, the rate of ovarian cancer diagnoses has been falling over the last 20 years.
Ovarian Cancer Signs and Symptoms6
Ovarian cancer symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from normal menstrual symptoms, and some women may not experience any symptoms at all. Ovarian cancers are difficult to detect early because there may not be symptoms unless the disease has spread. When ovarian cancer is found early, about 94% of patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
Common signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic area
- Abdominal or back pain
- A change in your bathroom habits, such as more frequent or urgent need to urinate
Consult your healthcare professional if you experience any of these prolonged symptoms.
Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Staging6
If you have symptoms of ovarian cancer, your healthcare professional may advise a pelvic exam. If something suspicious is found, they may recommend an ovarian cancer test. There are several methods for diagnosing ovarian cancer, the most common is imaging.
- An ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image doctors can view. Ultrasound is often used first, as it is the least invasive.
- Computed tomography, or CT scan, is an x-ray test that reveals detailed images on your body. This test is especially helpful if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
- Positron emission tomography, or PET scan, uses radioactive sugar. Cancer cells absorb sugar at a different rate from healthy cells. This allows doctors to see cancer growth.
Your healthcare professional may also suggest additional tests. This may include inserting a small camera to look at the tumor or conducting a biopsy to study the tissue. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, your healthcare professional will determine if it has spread. This is called staging.
The 2 systems used for staging ovarian cancer, the FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) system and the AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer) TNM staging system are basically the same.
They both use 3 factors to stage (classify) this cancer:
- The extent (size) of the tumor (T): Has the cancer spread outside the ovary or fallopian tube? Has the cancer reached nearby pelvic organs like the uterus or bladder?
- The spread to nearby lymph nodes (N): Has the cancer spread to the lymph nodes in the pelvis or around the aorta (the main artery that runs from the heart down along the back of the abdomen and pelvis)? Also called para-aortic lymph nodes.
- The spread (metastasis) to distant sites (M): Has the cancer spread to fluid around the lungs (malignant pleural effusion) or to distant organs such as the liver or bones
Ovarian Cancer Treatment Options6
Your healthcare provider may offer many different options to treat your ovarian cancer. Different stages and ovarian cancer types may require different treatments. Treatments may consist of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy and each treatment will try to remove or destroy the cancer cells. Your doctor may recommend using one or more of these treatments:
Surgery is the most common treatment you’ll experience with most ovarian cancers. Depending on its stage, it’s possible to treat ovarian cancer without removing both ovaries and the uterus.
This treatment uses high-energy waves to kill cancer cells. It is administered much like a regular x-ray.
One or more anti-cancer drugs are introduced to shrink or to stop cancer growth. It also kills cancer cells left within the body.
With genetic testing you could find that you are eligible for other targeted treatments or clinical trials. Talk with your doctor about genetic testing and all the risks, side effects, and benefits of each treatment.
- Lancaster, JM et al. Society of Gynecologic Oncology statement on risk assessment for inherited gynecologic cancer predispositions. Gynecologic Oncology 136(2015)3–7.
- Walsh, T et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 18032-18037, November 1, 2011. Vol 108, no 44.
- Swisher, E. Beyond BRCA: Other Genetic Markers for High Risk Women and Prophylactic Surgery for High Risk Women. SGO Annual Meeting 2016.
- Walsh T, et al. Mutations in 12 genes for inherited ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal carcinoma identified by massively parallel sequencing. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 1;108(44):18032-7.
- Ford D, et al. Risks of cancer in BRCA1-mutation carriers. Breast Cancer Linkage Consortium. Lancet. 1994; 343(8899):692-5.
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2020. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2020.