Today, May 8th 2013 marks the very first World Ovarian Cancer Day. Today several organizations from around the world will join forces to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and to help educate the public about its symptoms.

Approximately 11-15% of ovarian cancer cases are caused by mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. When someone carries a mutation in either of these genes, they have a syndrome called Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) syndrome. Once a women has been identified as being at increased risk of HBOC, genetic test results provide the most accurate means of ovarian cancer risk assessment.

A woman with HBOC syndrome has an up to 44% chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 as opposed to the general population which has typically a less than 1% chance of developing ovarian cancer by the same age.

The following questions can be asked to help determine whether someone has a higher risk for ovarian cancer because of their own cancer history and their family’s history.

Knowing your potential risk can help your healthcare professional and you make better, more informed decisions about your health, before the onset of cancer or before a second cancer has a chance to develop. Testing should be considered for HBOC syndrome if:


  • Have had breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • Have had ovarian cancer at any age
  • Are male and have had breast cancer at any age
  • Are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and have a personal or family history of breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer*

Your Family:

  • Has had two breast cancers in the same person or on the same side of the family
  • Has had somebody diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at any age
  • Has had pancreatic cancer and an HBOC-associated* cancer in the same person or on the same side of the family
  • Has three or more family members with breast cancer on the same side of the family

* HBOC-associated cancers are breast, ovarian and pancreatic.

**Assessment criteria based on medical society guidelines.

To help assess whether you or someone you know would be a good candidate for HBOC testing, you can take the Hereditary Cancer Quiz. This quiz can help you get the information you need to discuss you risk of cancer with your healthcare professional and ask for further evaluation. If someone matches any of the red flags above or takes the quiz and finds red flags in their own history or their family history, they may benefit from hereditary cancer testing.