Family history of ovarian cancer

Last Modified: October 5, 2003


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I have a family history of ovarian cancer from both my mother and maternal grandmother I am frightened of getting cancer too. What can I do to make sure that if I detect it early enough to be treatable?  


Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Because you have a family history of ovarian cancer, I would definitely recommend that you investigate the options for genetic counseling in your area. There are certain genetic defects (such as mutations in the BRCA1, BRCA2, and HNPCC genes) that are associated with familial ovarian cancer. After counseling and evaluation of your family history, blood tests can be performed to check for mutations. Even in the absence of genetic testing, some women with strong family histories may wish to consider prophylactic removal of their ovaries after childbearing is complete. While no cost-effective ovarian cancer screening for the general population has been found, patients at high-risk are sometimes screened with physical examination, CA-125 testing and transvaginal ultrasound to examine the ovaries every 6 months. You should discuss these options with your health care provider.