Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy last year as a carrier of the faulty BRCA gene mutation (which can lead to both breast and ovarian cancer) may have put the issue in the spotlight; however a new report released today shows it has had little impact on the number of women with a family history being genetically tested.

Health on Female First

Health on Female First

The study by medical research charity Ovarian Cancer Action to mark Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (March) shows that while almost 90% of women are aware of the Angelina story, and more than 90% understood her decision to undergo the double mastectomy, only one in ten were then prompted by it to look into their own family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Of those that did look into their family history, only 2% had a genetic test for the BRCA gene mutation, while a third found it difficult to find out information about their family’s history of ovarian and breast cancer.

15% of women said they felt nervous about discussing the subject of breast / ovarian cancer with their immediate family, while 1 in 6 said they felt afraid of discussing it.

More than 60% say they are not aware of where to get more info about genetic testing, while  

63% have not heard of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

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 ovarian cancer from 1 in 54 to 1 in 2.

The message for ALL women, especially those with a significant family history of either breast and/or ovarian cancer, is to be ‘BRCA aware’ by checking out their family medical history. It could save their life.

Known as the most deadly gynecological cancers - ovarian cancer kills 1 woman every 2 hours here in the UK and with 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.

There’s currently no screening tool for ovarian cancer and symptoms are often confused by both women and doctors for other conditions. Of the women surveyed, more than half were unaware that persistent stomach pains and bloating could be a sign. Likewise 60% were unaware increased stomach size, 85% difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and 80% needing to urinate more frequently were clear signs of ovarian cancer.

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

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