Given the new screening recommendations, and the fact that it’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to provide the latest information on BRCA testing, implications, symptoms, risk of developing ovarian cancer and ways to get the ball rolling so you can be your best advocate.
This update on new guidelines from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force is calling for more women to be tested for mutations on the BRCA gene – not only women who already know, perhaps through research through a site like Geneology Bank (read more here), that they have a family history, but now women who have been diagnosed with breast, ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer, as well as those who have ancestry associated with those types of cancers.
As you read on, you will see that mutations in this gene can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, as well as ovarian cancer.
New Guidelines Call For More Women To Be Tested For Mutations On The BRCA Gene
- New guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) call for more women to be tested for mutations on the BRCA gene.
- Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene can increase your risk of breast cancer by about 45 to 65 percent and your risk of ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer by up to 39 percent.
- Experts point out new mutations have been discovered that could help identify more women at risk of developing these cancers.
This week, the USPSTF released a new set of breast cancer screening recommendations to better predict and manage people’s risk of certain inherited cancers.
The guidelines, which were published in JAMA, suggest that many women, especially those who have already been diagnosed with cancer, should undergo genetic testing to look for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which are most commonly seen in inherited breast cancers.
“For individuals with a past BRCA-related cancer who are now cancer-free, genetic testing can still be a very important tool,” Courtney Rowe-Teeter, a genetic counselor at Stanford Health Care, told Healthline. “If they have a BRCA mutation, then they are at elevated risk for a second BRCA-related cancer in the future and can consider increased screening protocols and/or preventative measures, such as increased breast surveillance and risk-reducing ovarian surgery.”
BRCA mutations increase your chances of getting cancer
The BRCA genes are considered tumor suppressor genes. When they’re functioning properly, they help prevent tumors from forming.
We each have two of them: one from our mother and one from our father. When there’s a harmful change in either of these genes, our risk for cancer increases exponentially.
“Someone who inherits a harmful change (mutation or pathogenic variant) in a copy of a BRCA gene are at elevated risk for several types of cancer, with the highest risks being for breast cancer and ovarian cancer,” Rowe-Teeter said. While a BRCA mutation is rare, having one would increase your risk of breast cancer by about 45 to 65 percent and your risk of ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer by up to 39 percent.
Should You Get Tested?
The BRCA gene test is a blood test that uses DNA to determine whether you carry a BRCA mutation. DNA testing centers, such as Health Street and many more, are always welcoming new clients that are interested in taking a test. Research into the ones near you and if they are suitable for this specific test. If you take this test and the results are positive, you can speak with your doctor or oncologist to determine what your risk is. As this is a genetic test, you can also consult with a genetic counsellor who can help you determine if this test is the right option for you.
What You Can Expect BRCA Gene Test for Ovarian Cancer Risk
The BRCA gene test is most often a blood test. A doctor, nurse or medical technician inserts a needle into a vein, usually in your arm, to draw the blood sample needed for testing. Your blood sample then goes to a lab for DNA analysis. In some cases, other sample types are collected for DNA analysis, including saliva. If you have a family history of cancer and are interested in pursuing a saliva DNA test, discuss it with your doctor. He or she can refer you to a genetic counselor who can determine the most appropriate sample type for genetic testing.
It takes several weeks before test results are available. You meet with your genetic counselor to learn your test results, discuss their implications and go over your options. Federal and state laws help ensure the privacy of your genetic information and protect against discrimination in health insurance and employment.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S. Treatment works best when ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, so it’s very important to be aware of the symptoms and get regular screening.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer As Outlined By CDC
- Vaginal bleeding (particularly if you are past menopause), or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you.
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic area.
- Abdominal or back pain.
- Feeling full too quickly, or difficulty eating.
- A change in your bathroom habits, such as more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation.
Getting yourself checked at regular intervals could assist you in detecting problems at an early stage. For example, if you’ve been experiencing pelvic pain for a while, you can get it properly diagnosed, and it could also be just due to postnatal urinary incontinence, which can be treated with TESLAChair treatment. The treatments are completely non-invasive, which appeals to patients who want to avoid the risks and downtime associated with surgery. So, getting checked and treated while the problems are still in their early stages can save you from further intricacies.
Ovarian Cancer Resources
SURVIVEiT’s medical and survivory advisory boards are made of individuals whose lives have been impacted by many types of cancer, including ovarian cancer.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, our ovarian cancer resource library can help guide you towards finding a treatment strategy for your unique cancer and help you feel more in control.