This year approximately 500 people will be diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and another 300 people will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Although it is not always known what causes cancer, there could be a family, or genetic connection.
Ovarian and prostate cancer, as well as pancreatic cancer and some specific types of breast cancer, can all be signs of inherited cancer syndromes, which can be passed down from parent to child.
“Inherited cancer syndromes are caused by genetic changes in specific genes and these genetic changes can raise your risk of cancer,” says Dr. Intan Schrader, co-medical director of the Hereditary Cancer Program at BC Cancer. “Knowing whether or not you carry a genetic change, means that you could be eligible for certain cancer prevention or screening options to try to catch cancer early or prevent it altogether.”
As many as one in four cases of ovarian cancer and 1 in 10 cases of metastatic prostate cancer is caused by an inherited cancer syndrome.
Genetic testing through BC Cancer’s Hereditary Cancer Program
may be an option for those with a personal history or strong family connection to these cancer types. A referral from a primary care provider is not necessary – anyone who believes they may be at risk of carrying a genetic change in a cancer susceptibility gene can self-refer to the program. This includes people who have had a diagnosis of ovarian or metastatic prostate cancer or have close family members of anyone who has had ovarian cancer.
Eligibility for a referral to the Hereditary Cancer Program is available to anyone who may have signs of a family cancer syndrome. These include:
- Ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer (non-mucinous epithelial, including serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma (STIC))
- Metastatic prostate cancer
- Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and personal or family history of breast, ovary, pancreatic, high-grade prostate cancer
- A close relative (sibling, parent, child, aunt/uncle, grandchild, grandparent) who has or had ovarian cancer
Those who received testing through the Hereditary Cancer Program more than a decade ago may also be eligible to get tested again.
“Genetic testing has changed and expanded over the last twenty years,” explains Dr. Schrader. “In the last ten years researchers have identified more genes that can increase cancer risk. If your relative accessed genetic testing many years ago, it is possible that they - or you - could be eligible for updated testing.”
These genes include BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, BRIP1, RAD51C, RAD51D, and others.