A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology studied nearly 5,800 women with specific genetic mutations called BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Researchers found that women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations who proactively had their ovaries removed reduced their risk of ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer by 80 percent, and their overall risk of death by 77 percent.
BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility genes, a class of genes that are tumor suppressors. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
According to the study, women with BRCA1 mutations should have preventive ovarian surgery (known as prophylactic oophorectomy) by age 35, because waiting past that age is shown to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
In contrast, the study suggests that women with BRCA2 mutations can delay surgery until their 40s, as their risk of ovarian cancer is not as high.
"Patients with BRCA mutations are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer, which is usually diagnosed at advanced stages and is lethal in the majority of cases," said Dr. Wafic ElMasri, OB/GYN and gynecological oncologist at Community Health Network.
"We do not have reliable screening tests that detect ovarian cancer at early stages," said ElMasri. "BRCA mutation carriers should undergo risk-reducing removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries between ages 35 and 40, or when childbearing is complete."
How do I know if I have a BRCA gene mutation?
To determine if you carry the hereditary gene, know your family history. If there is a first or second degree connection to breast or ovarian cancer in the family, your risk for being diagnosed with cancer is increased. You can then have a genetic test performed to determine if you do, in fact, have the gene mutation.
Where can I get genetic testing?
Community Health Network provides genetic testing and counseling for women who believe that they are at risk for developing cancer. To learn more, or to schedule a test, call 317-621-8988.