(September 23, 2022, Atlanta, GA, JNS Wire) September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022, roughly 19,880 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 12,810 women will not survive. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women in the U.S. and is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
New information about how BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations contribute to ovarian cancer risk and response to therapy is helping women and their doctors make practical decisions about prevention and treatment.
All individuals with ovarian cancer or those with a family history of ovarian cancer should be offered genetic testing. However, it is estimated that 80% of ovarian cancer patients have never discussed genetic testing with their physicians. With new treatments available, it is imperative that we ensure cancer genetic testing is accessible.
Clinical trials have demonstrated that women with BRCA-related ovarian cancers benefit from including PARP inhibitors as part of their treatments. This has significantly changed how we approach genetic testing in relation to ovarian cancer. With the emergence of targeted treatments like PARP inhibitors, which target cancers that rely on the PARP enzyme to repair damaged DNA, it becomes essential to determine a patient’s BRCA status at the time of their diagnosis. BRCA status helps determine which patients would benefit from PARP inhibitor treatment. These individualized treatments reinforce the importance of knowing the BRCA status of all women with ovarian cancer.
Detecting ovarian cancer early could have an enormous impact on the cure rate. Only about 20% of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage because symptoms often go undetected. When ovarian cancer is detected early, through measures like genetic screening, about 94% of patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis. Early detection truly saves lives.
While genetic testing has continued to improve the care and treatment of patients with ovarian cancer, it is also a vital tool for cancer prevention. “Making cancer genetic testing accessible is key,” said Jane Lowe Meisel, MD, Associate Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and medical director for JScreen’s cancer program. “This testing is important because it alerts people to their risks before they get cancer. For patients who are found to have mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, for example, they can consider prophylactic removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes once they have completed childbearing, which reduces their risk of ovarian cancer significantly,” she adds.
Enter JScreen, a national public health initiative based out of Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Human Genetics. JScreen recently added CancerGEN to its testing portfolio, providing nationwide access to cancer genetic screening that is more affordable and accessible than ever. JScreen’s CancerGEN initiative offers at-home testing for more than 60 cancer susceptibility genes, including BRCA1 and BRCA2, that are associated with hereditary risks for ovarian, breast, colorectal, skin, and many other hereditary cancers. This testing provides a life-saving opportunity to screen for ovarian and other cancer risks.
“Knowledge is power. With an understanding and awareness of their cancer risks and available options, people can work with their health-care providers on next steps,” said Karen Arnovitz Grinzaid, MS, CGC, Assistant Professor of Human Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine, and JScreen’s Executive Director. “With ovarian cancer, genetic testing can truly be a game-changer,” adds Grinzaid.
Getting tested through JScreen is easy. All you need to do to receive your simple at-home test kit is sign up online, provide a saliva sample and use pre-paid postage to mail it in. JScreen’s tests use state-of-the-art genetic sequencing technology to ensure highly accurate results. Importantly, licensed genetic counselors provide consultations via phone or secure video conferencing to ensure that people understand their results.
One of JScreen’s goals is to make testing affordable. JScreen’s CancerGEN test costs $199. The program also offers a separate test called ReproGEN for individuals or couples planning to have children – this test includes over 200 genetic diseases like Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease that could impact a couple’s future children. The ReproGEN test costs $149. JScreen also provides need-based financial assistance.
The proof of JScreen’s passion for saving lives is in the incredible stories they hear, the people who can now take action to avoid a cancer diagnosis, and the healthy babies that are born. As the JScreen team likes to say – “we are a small team with a huge footprint.”