Your genetic test result can sometimes change your treatment plan and follow-up care. It may also make you eligible for certain clinical trials. There are new drugs called ‘PARP (poly ADPribose polymerase) inhibitors’ that may be offered to people who have BRCA gene variants responsible for their cancer.
Cancer Australia recommends offering assessment of genetic risk to all people who have been diagnosed with invasive epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer, regardless of their age or family history. These people have about a 15% chance of carrying a pathogenic gene variant responsible for their ovarian cancer.
If you have been diagnosed and have not been offered genetic testing, you should ask your specialist about this. It is important to have a discussion with your doctor about genetic testing as there may be other reasons for you to be tested for gene mutations.
Your doctor may organise testing themselves or refer you to a Family Cancer Clinic. If you find out you have inherited a gene variant that has caused your ovarian cancer, you should be referred to a Family Cancer Clinic who can discuss the results with you in more detail.
If a gene variant is found, the genetic counsellor will suggest offering genetic testing to other family members. If other family members have inherited the same gene variant, and are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer, a gynaecological oncologist can advise about ways to reduce their risk.
Tumour genetic testing:
Cancer usually develops because of genetic changes in cells which cause abnormal growth. These usually happen after a person is born. They are called somatic variants and happen only in the tumour cells as cancer develops. Sometimes people will be offered genetic testing for somatic variants in their tumour tissue. Finding somatic mutations may help to target their treatment options. Tumour genetic testing can sometimes also find inherited gene variants.
Some people are concerned about the impact genetic test results will have on their current or future insurance policies. Health insurance in Australia is not based on a risk assessment of your health and therefore genetic testing should not affect public or private health insurance policies. New information should not affect any current policies that you already have in place. Having a personal and/or family history of cancer can affect other types of insurance, whether you have a genetic test or not. For up-to-date information about other types of insurance and genetic testing, please see the Centre for Genetics Education factsheet on Life Insurance Products and Genetic Testing in Australia. Read the factsheet here. You can speak with an insurance broker for individual advice.
Guide to genetic testing and hereditary ovarian cancer