Up to 25% of ovarian cancers are caused by an inheritable genetic condition, such as a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes — the same genes that may raise breast cancer risk. People with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have about a 20% to 45% chance of developing ovarian cancer, compared to about 1% of women in the general U.S. population, says Dr. Wright.
The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Irving Medical Center aims to improve the survival of women with such mutations. Launched in 2018, the program integrates the screening, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of inherited breast and ovarian cancer, streamlining care. The program brings together experts from different medical specialties, offers genomic testing, and conducts clinical trials.
“The goal is to provide one-stop shopping for patients who either have one of these genetic abnormalities or may be at high risk for an abnormality,” says Dr. Wright. “For patients who carry a genetic abnormality, care usually involves going to a lot of different appointments for tests and to see different specialists. We’re trying to make it as easy and seamless as we can.”
The center’s patients tend to be from one of two populations. One group comprises people who have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer and want to find out if they have a genetic mutation that increases their risk for cancer. They may consult with a genetic counselor and undergo genetic testing.
The second group consists of those with a confirmed mutation who need help navigating their options. The options include enhanced screening, special imaging and blood tests to identify ovarian cancer, and prophylactic surgery — removing the ovaries or other reproductive organs as a preventive measure.
“Often when women have a family history of cancer, there’s a lot of fear around that association,” says Dr. Wright. “The goal of the center is to empower women, to give them as much information as possible, and then they can make informed decisions both for themselves and their family members.”