This week sees the launch of Ovarian Cancer Action's Hereditary Cancer Risk Tool, which has been developed to help people identify if their family history puts them at risk of ovarian and other cancers, as well as the risk-reducing options available.
Around 15% of ovarian cancer cases are linked to genetic mutations such as BRCA1, BRCA2 and Lynch Syndrome, which increase an individual's likelihood of developing ovarian and other cancers. This equates to over 1,000 women a year in the UK whose lives could potentially be saved if armed with the knowledge that would allow them to take preventative action.
The simple tool asks a series of questions regarding a person's family history of cancer and compares the answers to the national testing eligibility guidelines. It then, if necessary, clearly explains what the next steps should be if an individual chooses to pursue testing on the NHS, and reminds the user of the importance of symptoms awareness regardless of their genetic status.
The new tool makes a timely arrival following Theresa May’s ambitious announcement just a few weeks ago, calling on the NHS, Artificial Intelligence sector and health charities to work together to prevent 22,000 deaths each year by 2033. The Prime Minister focused the grand challenge on four cancers commonly diagnosed at a late stage, including ovarian cancer.
Genetic mutations can be passed down through the male or female line to future generations. The general population has a 1 in 400 to 1 in 800 chance of having a BRCA gene mutation. This increases to 1 in 40 in those with Jewish heritage.
Laura Moses was diagnosed with ovarian cancer aged 27. She had found out she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation just one year previously.
She says: “BRCA has come from my great-grandfather’s side of the family. He had five sisters; two died of breast cancer and three died of ovarian cancer. I’m now a voice for those women who came before me in my family who had no idea of the mutation they carried that put them at risk of these cancers.
“There is not one minute where I question my decision to get tested. It meant I was able to get regular checks. It was very tough to find out about the mutation aged 26, but it allowed me to make choices about my body. We have to remember that knowledge is power.”
Dr Jonathan Krell, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology at Imperial College, says ,"The more we know about a person’s risk of developing cancer, the more we can do to try and detect it earlier or prevent it from occurring at all through the use drugs or surgery. Optimising prevention measures in this group of women is crucial in reducing the rate of deaths from cancer and I believe risk tools such as this will have a significant impact on public health.”
Jo Stanford, Hereditary Cancer Specialist at Ovarian Cancer Action and co-creator of the Hereditary Cancer Risk Tool, said: “Every time a person with a genetic mutation is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it represents a cancer prevention failure. Along with genetic counsellors, we want to ensure individuals can make informed decisions about surveillance, preventative surgeries and its considerations, such as family planning. Genetic testing is one of our strongest weapons in the fight against ovarian cancer and this tool makes it very easy to find out if you are eligible. All you need is a few minutes and some information about your family history of cancer; it could change your life.”
To explore your hereditary cancer risk, visit: ovarian.org.uk/risktool