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Ovarian Cancer Screening

Despite all of the advances in modern medicine and cancer screening, researchers have yet to identify an effective screening tool for ovarian cancer.  As a result, ovarian cancer continues to be a devastating condition typically due to the late stage of disease at time of diagnosis.  While annual examinations including pelvic examinations aid in diagnosis and remain useful components in women's health assessments, more research is needed to improve early detection rates.  Currently, screening for ovarian cancer is not recommended in low risk women. 

Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer

  • Family History of ovarian cancer
  • Known BRCA gene positivity in family
  • Family history of hereditary colon cancers
  • Never being pregnant
  • Being overweight or obese 
  • Older age

Factors that May Reduce Ovarian Cancer

  • Being pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • Consecutive use of birth control pills or hormonal birth control
  • Tubal sterilization to prevent pregnancy
  • Surgical removal of uterus or ovaries

Screening Tests Studied in the Past

  • CA125 - tumor marker available through a blood test that is useful in following women with known ovarian cancer.  It can be falsely elevated in many conditions that affect women, including but not limited to endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic inflammation, and/or other conditions/cancers.  It can also fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, and is therefore currently not recommended as a screening tool

 

  • Pelvic Ultrasound - uses imaging of the uterus and ovaries through sound waves to detect abnormalities in the ovaries.  Can be useful at identifying masses on the ovaries, but not useful at early detection. 

 

  • OVA -1 - useful group of blood tests in presence of mass on ovary that can identify if malignancy more likely but not useful as a stand alone test without the presence of ovarian masses 

Genetic Testing for Ovarian Cancer

Most ovarian cancers occur spontaneously, or without a prior family history.  However, about 10% of ovarian cancers are inherited.  Two genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are responsible for the ovarian and/or breast cancers present in several generations of family members.  Testing for BRCA genes should be considered in the following individuals:

  • Personal history of breast cancer prior to the age of 45
  • Personal history of ovarian cancer at age age
  • Known BRCA positive status in any relative
  • Two or more relatives on the same side of the family (either maternal or paternal) with breast cancer prior to the age of 50 or ovarian cancer at any age
  • Ashkenazi or Eastern European Jewish descent (Ashkenazi Jews comprise approximately 90% of all American Jews)

North Atlanta OBGYN is pleased to offer BRCA testing in our office.  If you think you meet criteria for genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer, please make an appointment today or talk to your provider at your next office visit.

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