Women with ovarian cancer are in critical danger of missing out on life-saving treatment because the National Health Service does not offer genetic testing.
Ovarian cancer affects more than 6,500 women in the UK every year. It is the fifth most common cancer among women.
The symptoms are difficult to recognize, they tend to be very similar to symptoms of less serious conditions. The most common early symptoms are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficult eating and nausea.
One in five women with non-mucinous epithelial ovarian cancer, 70% of all cases, are believed to carry the BRCA 1 or 2 mutation, which dramatically increasing their risk of developing the disease.
BRCA gene mutation means that patients have between a 40 and 60% change of developing ovarian tumors, compared with 2% in women without the mutation.
Women with the MRCA gene mutation also have a 60 to 90% chance of developing breast tumors that tend to be difficult to treat.
The mutation indicates a form of cancer that responds better to drugs known as PARP inhibitors.
In a report today, the charity Ovarian Cancer Action called for all women diagnosed with this kind of ovarian cancer to be offered screening for the faulty BRCA genes at the point of diagnosis. The goal is to make sure that women with the mutation get the appropriate treatment. Genetic testing is the only way to determine whether a woman will benefit from PARP drugs.
PARP inhibitors are more effective at successfully attacking cancer cells and shrinking tumors in patients with BRCA1 or 2 than patients without. They are particularly important for patients with the mutation who have a recurrence of ovarian cancer and for whom there might not be many options.
Patients with the gene are far more likely to develop breast cancer further down the line, which is why the screening is so important, it impacts future disease risk.