Online Tool Assesses Family History of Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Women concerned about their family history of ovarian or breast cancer are being encouraged to go online with their general practitioner to complete National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre's new risk assessment tool.
Dr Helen Zorbas, CEO, National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC), said the easy-to-use online tool has been developed to assist health professionals in assessing a woman's risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer based on her family history of the diseases.
The Familial Risk Assessment - Breast and Ovarian Cancer tool can be accessed online at www.nbocc.org.au/fraboc
The online tool, developed for use by doctors, takes a woman and her doctor through a maximum of eight questions, collecting information about the history of breast and ovarian cancer on both sides of the family.
'The tool helps to identify women who should be referred to a family cancer clinic for further assessment and advice," said Dr Zorbas. 'However, the tool will mostly reassure the majority of women they are not at increased risk for ovarian or breast cancer based on their family history."
Though family history is an important risk factor for both ovarian and breast cancer, many women overestimate significance of their family history.
'In fact, less than one per cent of women will be placed into the highest risk category for ovarian or breast cancer based on their family history," said Dr Zorbas.
'The significance of a family history increases with the number of family members affected, the younger their ages at diagnosis, and the closer the relation. Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent is also a key determinant."
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer have an increased risk of developing either cancer. The same inherited genetic faults that make a person more likely to develop breast cancer may also make a person more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
The online tool does not ask for personal contact details, so women can be assured of their privacy. Each year, more than 1200 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than 12,600 are diagnosed with breast cancer.
National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre is funded by the Australian Government and works with consumers, health professionals, cancer organisations, researchers and governments to improve care and cancer control in breast and ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer in Australia
In Australia, more than 1200 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, that's one woman every eight hours.
About 800 women lose their lives to the disease each year.
More than 70 per cent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage where the disease has spread and is difficult to treat successfully.
About 40 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will be alive five years after their diagnosis.
There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer – a Pap test is used to detect cervical cancer only.
It is important for women to get to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and to see their doctor if they experience symptoms that are persistent or unusual for them.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer include: abdominal bloating, abdominal or back pain, appetite loss or feeling full quickly, changes in toilet habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, indigestion or heartburn, and fatigue.
Family history: ovarian and breast cancer
Women with a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer may be at increased risk of developing these cancers, with the risk increasing with the number of relatives affected (with breast and/or ovarian cancer) on one side of the family.
The same inherited genetic faults that make a person more likely to develop breast cancer may also make a person more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
Breast cancer is fairly common. One in nine Australian women will develop breast cancer before the age of 85. Many women have someone in their family who has had breast cancer; this can happen by chance, as the disease is common.
As ovarian cancer is less common than breast cancer in the population, a family history of ovarian cancer can sometimes be a stronger predictor of risk than family history of breast cancer.
Hereditary links may account for approximately 15 per cent of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer.
Less than five per cent of breast cancers are due to an inherited gene mutation.
For more information, visit www.nbocc.org.au