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Posted by Target Ovarian Cancer on Wednesday 28 May 2014

90 per cent of GPs surveyed recently admitted to being unaware that the increased risk of developing ovarian cancer can be passed through the father’s side of the family. Target Ovarian Cancer believes that lives could be saved if this knowledge were better applied, and GPs and women were more aware of opportunities for risk reduction.

In our most recent Pathfinder Study, 89 per cent of GPs surveyed correctly believed that a family history of breast cancer can increase the risk of getting ovarian cancer. However, GPs are much less likely to be aware that women are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer if they have a strong history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer on their father’s side; overall just 10 per cent are aware. The majority either think there is no risk association (40 per cent) or don’t know (50 per cent).

To help promote this link, we've commissioned a new GP eLearning tool:The Family History of Ovarian Cancer, in association with Pulse Learning, to update GPs’ understanding of familial breast and/or ovarian cancer. It reinforces our ongoing commitment to the support of women with familial risk and further establishes the charity as a key provider of GP support and education in ovarian cancer.

Understanding family history is vital

Understanding family history is vital, as up to 20 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will have an inherited form of ovarian cancer, for example BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations. The average woman has a 2 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer at some point during her lifetime. This increases to between 15 and 45 per cent if she has a mutation in either the BRCA1 or 2 genes. By identifying the familial risk, women can consider important decisions to reduce their risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer, as well as ensuring they’re aware of the symptoms and can be diagnosed at the earliest possible stage if the cancer does develop.

Karen McCloughlin was told she had a familial gene mutation after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her great grandmother and her aunt on her father’s side had both died of breast cancer: “Both sides of the family are important when it comes to family risk – and doctors need to be more aware. I felt that because it was my dad’s sister and grandmother who’d had breast cancer, they didn't think it was important and had ruled out cancer being in my family.”

An important step

Dr Vincent Rawcliffe, Hull GP and a member of Target Ovarian Cancer’s GP Advisory Board, said: “It is vital that all GPs become aware of the importance of a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer on the father’s side. GPs must ask patients about their full family history to support women to think about their risk reduction options and to enable earlier diagnosis. This new learning tool is an important step to making that happen.”

Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Men matter when it comes to familial breast and ovarian cancer risk in the family. Over a thousand women each year develop ovarian cancer because they have inherited faulty genes. The Family History of Ovarian Cancer CPD tool will help GPs to access the most up to date knowledge and enable them to help women access life-saving support”.

David Lammy MP (pay wall) gave an emotional interview on increased risk to The Times newspaper a few months ago. Both his mother and grandmother died of ovarian cancer, and his sister has since had the BRCA test and been found to have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. He's currently waiting on his own test results. 

For more information The Family History of Ovarian Cancer CPD tool or any of Target Ovarian Cancer’s other CDP tools visit our GP pages.