Pretty much everyone can think of a time where cancer has affected them, whether they have personally had to battle cancer, a close family member or friend has been diagnosed, or even if they have just heard stories of survivors. When I hear the word cancer, I immediately think of breast or ovarian cancer because it is one of the most common cancers in the world.
In fact, it is the sixth most common cancer in women in the UK.
According to the authors of the scientific article Genetic Testing for epithelial Ovarian Cancer, ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death among women diagnosed with gynecological cancers. This article that was published in January of 2020 explains the significance that genetic testing plays in the early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer.
Perhaps the most commonly known genes in regard to cancer are the BRCA 1 and 2 genes. Researchers have determined that mutations, or changes, in these genes contribute to cancer susceptibility, and knowledge of these mutations have lead to effective courses of treatment for breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic testing allows doctors to test patients for these genetic mutations. If a patient has the version of the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes that causes a higher susceptibility to cancer, they can be eligible for personalized treatment which has a much higher success rate. In basic terms, if doctors know the specific problem behind the cancer, they can more easily fix it.
A common misconception is that having a mutated BRCA gene means that you have cancer. This is not the case. If somebody has this gene, it just means they have a higher chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer at some point, which is where cascade testing comes into play. If a patient has been tested and is positive for the mutated gene, it is more likely that their immediate family could have that mutation as well. Cascade testing for families allows family members to also get tested, and if they test positive there are risk reduction options they can choose to take. These options include preventative surgery such as a mastectomy or early detection steps as simple as starting to have mammograms at an earlier age.
When battling cancer, early detection is key, and the advantages that genetic testing provides can be the difference between life or death in ovarian cancer patients. Genetic testing for patients means a more certain course of action for treatment options. Cascade testing for families could mean prevention from developing breast or ovarian cancer all together. The benefits that come from utilizing genetic tests are extremely significant in detecting and preventing one of the most prevalent diseases facing us today.
Amin, N., Chaabouni, N., George, A., (2020). Genetic Testing for Epithelial Ovarian Cancer. Science Direct. DOI:10.1016/j.bpogyn.2020.01.005