Talking With Family About Ovarian Cancer


Inherited mutations affect a person's personal risk of cancer. They also raise the issue of talking to family members about their own cancer risk(s) and screening considerations. In a recent article, FORCE member and genetic counselor, Leigha Senter, highlights ways to approach this communication.

Up to 25 percent of ovarian cancers are due to an inherited mutation in a gene linked to cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are most commonly associated with ovarian cancer. Other genes that have been linked to ovarian cancer include ATM, BRIP1, EPCAM, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PALB2, PMS2, RAD51C and RAD51D. Because so many cases of ovarian cancer are due to an inherited mutation, current guidelines recommend that anyone diagnosed with ovarian cancer undergo genetic testing. Knowing about an inherited mutation may change surveillance and treatment options.

National guidelines also recommend that people with ovarian cancer who test positive for a genetic mutation share this information with their blood relatives, since these relatives may also be at increased risk. While family communication about increased cancer risk due to an inherited mutation may increase the number of relatives who consider risk-reducing measures, sharing this information within families can be complex. This review discusses how to share information about an ovarian cancer diagnosis, genetic test results and increased risk for cancer with family members.

Read more in FORCE’s review

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