Dr. Burton Brodsky had been an OB-GYN for years when his neighbor – and one of his wife’s closest friends – came to him with a question. She was wondering if she should be tested for this “BRCA gene.”  

Dr. Brodsky inquired about her family, and she told him that both sides of her family had an extensive history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer. 

“I told her she absolutely needed to be tested,” said Dr. Brodsky. 

But his friend was trying to get pregnant, and her OB-GYN advised her to delay testing. During her pregnancy and after, she was bloated, but her OB-GYN said that was a normal sign of pregnancy. When the bloating didn’t subside, she got further testing and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She passed away five and a half years later, leaving behind her husband and preschool aged son.  

“I think the hardest thing for me was knowing that she was not going to see her family grow up,” said Dr. Brodsky. “For her, she told me that the biggest thing is that ‘someone decided this for me. My provider told me to wait, so I didn’t have the information to make my own decision. I don’t know if it would have changed, but I certainly would have known about this and could have made different decisions.’” 

A silent threat: Understanding ovarian cancer symptoms  

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the “silent killer.” It is one of the most challenging diseases to detect in its early stages, as its subtle symptoms often look like common ailments.  

The American Cancer Society lists the following as symptoms of ovarian cancer: 

  • Bloating 
  • Pelvic or abdominal (belly) pain 
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly 
  • Urinary symptoms such as urgency (always feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often) 
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness) 
  • Upset stomach 
  • Back pain 
  • Pain during sex 
  • Constipation 
  • Changes in a woman’s period, such as heavier bleeding than normal or irregular bleeding 
  • Abdominal (belly) swelling with weight loss 

Because these symptoms can be relatively common or occur for other reasons, it can be difficult to catch ovarian cancer in its early stages, but doing so is crucial.  

“Only about 20% of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage. When ovarian cancer is found early, about 94% of patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis,” according to the American Cancer Society website

That’s why clinicians such as Dr. Brodsky use the MyRisk® Hereditary Cancer Test with RiskScore®  – to ensure their patients understand their risk so that they can take preventative measures, pay attention to the warning signs, and undergo additional screenings. 

“MyRisk® with RiskScore® has really made a huge difference in my patients’ lives. I tell people, I can’t take care of you unless I have this information,” said Dr. Brodsky. “You know, to me, this is like a vital sign.” 

By harnessing the power of genetic information, clinicians can empower patients, optimize treatment outcomes, and ultimately, advance the fight against ovarian cancer.  

For more information about how you can understand your risk, please visit: https://myriad.com/patients-families/hereditary-cancer-risk/