Thinking about cancer or dealing with cancer risk can be scary or overwhelming, but we believe that receiving information and resources is comforting, empowering, and lifesaving.
All women have some risk for ovarian cancer and this risk increases with age. The lifetime risk for ovarian cancer in the general population is about 1 in 70 (1.5%). Women with a BRCA mutation have a much higher lifetime risk and a tendency to develop ovarian cancer at a younger age.
When experts speak of ovarian cancer, they also include two related cancers: fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer. Both are staged and treated similarly to ovarian cancer. Estimates for ovarian cancer in BRCA mutation carriers also include the risk for fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer. Experts don’t know the exact lifetime risk for women with mutations and usually present a risk range from 10% -60% lifetime risk.
Mutations in other genes including BRIP1, RAD51c, RAD51d, and the genes associated with Lynch syndrome also increase ovarian cancer risk. The extent of cancer risk associated with mutations in these and other genes remains an active area of research. Expanded panel tests look for mutations in these and other genes that increase cancer risk.
In families with a strong history of ovarian cancer but no known BRCA mutation the risk is higher than in the general population but the exact risk is unknown. It is important for women in these families to consult with a cancer genetics expert to see if expanded panel tests for mutations in other genes is advisable. Researchers are looking for other causes of cancer in these families.
Research will improve experts' ability to pinpoint ovarian cancer risk. It is important to consult with a cancer genetics specialist when determining your risk for ovarian cancer and making risk-management decisions. Stay in contact with a genetics expert for updates on current knowledge.
Confronting your personal cancer risk can be confusing and isolating. If you're high-risk and trying to make risk-management decisions, you need as much support as possible. It helps to speak with other women in the FORCE community who have faced these risks. Our Peer Navigation Program will match you with a person who has faced similar decisions and can show you expert reviewed resources to help you work with your health care provider to make decisions about managing your cancer risk.