Lauren Mills, a genetic counselor, explains how genetic testing can empower women with valuable information to guide ovarian cancer treatment.
“Certain individuals with ovarian cancer, if they proceed with genetic testing and they test positive in specific genes, they might benefit the most from having PARP inhibitor medicine prescribed for them as a treatment for their ovarian cancer,” says Mills.
Value of genetic testing
When it comes to ovarian cancer, which is curable in more than 90% of cases when diagnosed early, genetic testing can be valuable.
Mutations of the BRCA gene, like BRCA1 or BRCA2, can place people at a heightened risk for breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
In the U.S., 90% of people who carry a BRCA gene mutation aren’t aware of it until someone in their family gets cancer.
Mills says when a woman tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation, she is advised to undergo surgery to remove both of her ovaries and uterus to eliminate her risk of ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer risk: Don’t believe everything you learn from direct-to-consumer genetic tests
Experts say direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits, such as 23andMe and ancestry.com, shouldn’t be a substitute for the legitimate, doctor-issued genetic tests.
“The testing only looks at very specific mutations in a very specific population,” says Mills. “There are many different mutations that an individual can have in a gene.”
Some people may test negative for one type of gene that the consumer test looks for and then get a false sense of security that they are protected against developing cancer, she says.