One of the most important risk factors for ovarian cancer is family history of the disease. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 25 percent of all ovarian cancer diagnoses are related to inherited genetic mutations.
So, if you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, a known inherited gene mutation (specifically BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a hereditary cancer syndrome (such as Lynch syndrome), you should talk to your doctor about your eligibility for genetic testing.
Genetic counseling services are available through Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute’s Gregory and Lorraine Harper Cancer Risk and Genetic Assessment Program. To initiate genetic testing, you can either have your primary care provider refer you to the program, or you can call the program directly at 610-402-8787 to request an appointment or to ask for more information.
“These tests can evaluate your hereditary cancer risk, and if needed, guide you toward appropriate preventive care,” Kim says.
Other risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having children later in life or not at all
- Receiving hormone therapy after menopause
- Undergoing fertility treatment
- Having a smoking history
“Even if you have one or more of these risk factors, you probably won’t develop ovarian cancer,” Kim says. “However, it means you should be even more aware of any symptoms you experience.”
There are also some preventive measures you can take to lower your chance of developing ovarian cancer.
“Research has shown that taking an oral contraceptive for an extended period of time, having children, breastfeeding or having your tubes tied can reduce your risk,” Kim says.