There are several genetic faults or mutations linked to ovarian cancer. Of greatest significance is a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene; this mutation accounts for around 13 per cent of all cases of ovarian cancer.22 The risk of developing ovarian cancer is two per cent for women generally, but rises to 30-50 per cent for women with a BRCA1 mutation and 10-25 per cent for women with a BRCA2 mutation.23 BRCA mutations can pass down either the mother’s or father’s side of the family. If a parent has the BRCA mutation, there is a 50 per cent chance they pass it on to their child.
Awareness of the significance of genetics remains low. Among women in the general population, 25 per cent think genetics might be a factor in developing ovarian cancer and 44 per cent of women with ovarian cancer are aware that there might be a genetic link.
Among GPs, there is high awareness (93 per cent) of the importance of family history on the mother’s side, but much lower awareness of the importance of family history on the father’s side, with just 38 per cent saying this mattered.
New guidance means that nearly all women with ovarian cancer are now eligible for genetic testing.24 86 per cent of women with ovarian cancer felt that all women with ovarian cancer who are offered genetic testing should be offered counselling before giving consent to go ahead with the test. In contrast, of those offered genetic testing, only 61 per cent were given counselling to help them decide whether they would like to be tested.