If you have just one relative with ovarian or breast cancer this is likely to have happened by chance and not due to an inherited genetic mutation. This will not significantly increase your risk of ovarian cancer.
A significant risk is defined as having a 10% chance of carrying a BRCA1/2 gene mutation and is usually worked out using a method known as the Manchester Scoring System. This takes into account personal and family history of breast and ovarian cancer and is often referred to as your carrier probability.
You may be at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer if:
- Two or more of your relatives who are related by blood have had ovarian cancer.
- There have been multiple cases of breast and/or ovarian cancer in your family.
- There have been multiple cases of bowel, womb or ovarian cancer in your family.
- If any of these cancers presented at a young age (typically before the age of 50), it is more likely that there may be an inherited genetic mutation in your family.
What to do if you are concerned about your family history
If you do appear to have a strong family medical history of cancer, you should discuss it with your GP. Before speaking to your doctor make a note of all the cases of cancer in your family and at what age they were diagnosed.
This will help you to have an informed discussion with your GP so that s/he can understand your family medical history and recommend whether it is appropriate to explore it further. The more documented evidence you have, the easier this process will be.
If your GP thinks that you have a significant family history s/he will refer you to your nearest genetics clinic for genetic counselling. If you have serious concerns about familial cancer ask your GP to refer you.
In England genetics services are commissioned through the NHS, so anyone can be referred to a genetic service and your GP does not have to pay for this out of their own budget. Note that access to services across the UK can be patchy so it’s important to be persistent if you feel you’re not getting access to the services you’re entitled to.
These are NHS England guidelines (also followed in Wales). You can download a PDF of this guide containing NHS Scotland guidelines here. If you have any questions please contact Ross@ovarian.org.uk.