All women in the world are at some risk of getting ovarian cancer. Some of them are at greater risk because there are many risk factors, including the family history factor, which can cause the disease to be passed from one female family member to another. If a mother is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, there are greater chances that at least one of her daughters is at risk of getting the same type of cancer. There are also some genetic mutations that can cause ovarian cancer, including the breast cancer mutations BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, and the Lynch syndrome. Even if the woman has no genetic mutations that can cause ovarian cancer, she can still get the disease if she has someone in her family with the same condition. Also, not every woman that has some of these genetic mutations will develop ovarian cancer later in life.
The lifetime risk of getting ovarian cancer is 5% for women who have first-degree relatives (mother and sister) with ovarian cancer, and 1.4% for women who don’t have first-degree relatives with ovarian cancer. There is also some risk for getting this disease if the woman has a grandmother, aunt our cousin with ovarian cancer, but it is very low compared to the chances of when the woman's mother or sister has ovarian cancer. The statistic says that 20-25% of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have the hereditary factor, and they can pass the disease to their daughters, and maybe to their granddaughters, in the future.
If a woman suspects that she may have ovarian cancer, she should tell her gynecologist her family factor, so that they can quickly perform tests. There are two types of tests that can help diagnose ovarian cancer:
- Transvaginal ultrasound or CT screening scans of the abdomen and pelvis.
- CA 125 blood tests that detect the protein CA 125, found on the surface of the ovaries.
A woman is at risk of developing ovarian cancer if she has a family history of any of these types of cancer:
- Colon cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
All of these cancers can be passed from one family member to another, but not necessarily in the same form. Colon cancer, uterine cancer and breast cancer all bring some genetic mutations that can cause ovarian cancer for the same patient or for his or her relatives.
Also, there are more reproductive risk factors that can cause ovarian cancer:
- Early menstrual periods (under the age of 12)
- Never getting pregnant
- First pregnancy after 30
- Menopause before 50
However, you need to remember that ovarian cancer can be very hard to discover because the symptoms are similar to or same as the symptoms of the menstrual period. Some women have very hard and painful periods, and they may not see if there is any change. They are at very high risk of discovering the ovarian cancer very late. That is why every woman has to take care of her fertile health and visit the gynecologist once or twice a year for regular examinations, more often if needed. That is the only way to discover any disease in the early stages and to be properly treated. It is too late for treatments and therapies when the damage is already done, so keep in mind that you should visit your gynecologist as soon as possible if you haven’t done so for a period longer than one year.