Importance of Genetic Testing for Ovarian Cancer Patients

Pictured: It's important for ovarian cancer patients to understand if their cancer has a hereditary cause.

What's in your genes?

While an estimated 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are due to hereditary factors, ovarian cancer is unique—up to 25 percent of these cancers are thought to have a hereditary cause. In other words, these cancers were caused by a genetic change you were born with that is present in every cell in your body. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common cause of hereditary ovarian cancer.

Knowing if there is a hereditary cause to your cancer is important for multiple reasons. It provides valuable information to your family members, allowing them to take appropriate screening, surveillance and preventative measures. Because ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect in its early stages, women with a family history of ovarian cancer are encouraged to seek a consultation at our High Risk Ovarian Cancer Clinic to help them better understand and manage their risk.

Knowing if there is a genetic link to your cancer also provides insight into treatment options for you as an ovarian cancer patient. Women with ovarian cancer who are known to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have been found to have a better response when treated with a specific type of drug called a PARP inhibitor. Therefore, knowing your genetic status can potentially provide additional treatment options for you and your physicians to consider.

In December 2014 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first PARP inhibitor for clinical use. Called LynparzaTM (olaparib), this drug has been approved to treat women with ovarian cancer who have failed at least three other lines of treatment and are confirmed to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

If you have questions about your genetic risk factors or are unsure if genetic testing is right for you, please reach out to the Clinical Genetics Services team at Roswell Park.