Ovarian cancer action calls for all women to follow Angelina’s lead and check their family medical history

OCA-email-sigTo mark Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in March, the charity Ovarian Cancer Action is calling for ALL women, especially those with a significant family history of either breast and/or ovarian cancer, to be ‘BRCA aware’ by checking out their family medical history. It may just save their life!

The charity is launching its BRCA Risk Tool – an online risk calculator @ ovarian.org.uk  – designed to help people make more informed choices about whether BRCA1/2 testing should be considered.

Following the international media attention generated in 2013 regarding Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she has the BRCA1 gene mutation (the inherited faulty gene) and had a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risks of developing breast cancer, more women in the UK with a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer are now coming forward asking about preventative surgery[1].

Advances in genetic testing and knowledge enabling the identification of the ‘faulty’ BRCA1/2 gene mean that women with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer (i.e. more than one person) can now find out more about their own risk of developing the disease. A family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer may indicate that there is the presence of a BRCA1/2 mutation which increases the risk of getting the disease from one in 54 to one in two.

According to a study into women’s awareness of ovarian cancer[2], 87.1% knew that a family history of ovarian cancer increased risk, but only 26.7% appreciated the association with a family history of breast cancer.

Gilda Witte, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, says; “Angelina Jolie made her very personal decision and is very brave to talk about her BRCA status and the preventative measures she took. Conversations generate awareness and awareness in turn educates people – prompting them to take action and hopefully make, what could be, some life saving decisions.

“During awareness month and beyond, we want to keep the BRCA conversation alive by encouraging as many women as we can to become more aware about their family health history and, if necessary, take the BRCA Risk Tool test to help eliminate any worry or anxiety.”

There is currently no screening tool for ovarian cancer, but if found in the early stages up to 90% of women will survive for more than five years.  Most women are not diagnosed until it has already spread, resulting in poor survival rates.

Facts about ovarian cancer
  • Known as the most deadly gynaecological cancers  – currently the 5th most common cancer among women
  • 7,000 new UK diagnoses each year
  • A shocking 32% of ovarian cancer patients in the UK are diagnosed each year through an emergency route
  • One woman every two hours dies from the disease in the UK

The four main symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Persist bloating or increased stomach size
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to urinate more frequently

The key features of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Their persistency – they don’t go away
  • Their frequency – they occur on most days
  • They are new – they started in the last 12 months
  • They are unusual – they are not normal for you


[1] UK, Professor Evans, a Consultant in Clinical Genetics at Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust

[2] CRUK Psychosocial Oncology Group, Brighton & Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer BN1 9QG, UK

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