The decision by celebrity Angelina Jolie to have preventative ovarian and fallopian tube surgery to prevent cancer is currently attracting significant media attention. Previous testing had demonstrated that she was carrying high risk genes linked to familial breast and ovarian cancer risk ( her mother died at 56 from ovarian cancer).

In her media statement she explained how she had been planning the surgery for some time, but although the surgery is relatively straight forward, the effects of being pushed into menopause required time to ready herself physically and emotionally. She needed to discuss her options with doctors, research alternative medicine options and plan ongoing management.

The population frequency for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations is estimated as less than 0.1%. In Australia 1 in 81 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime, about 1330 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year. It is estimated that up to 10% of ovarian cancers are linked to known genetic risks.

Women with a history of breast or ovarian cancer in their family who are concerned about their genetic risk can discuss this with their doctor, who can advise on whether or not genetic testing is appropriate for them. The complicated tests are only offered to women fitting strict criteria, due to limited resources, the Familial Cancer Program cannot make appointments for those who are not at increased risk of  cancer. Less than 1% of people are at a potentially high risk of cancer due to an hereditary predisposition. In Western Australia genetic testing is coordinated through the KEMH Genetic Clinic.

The following resources and risk assessment tools are available.


For referral guidelines- eviQ - register for free at

                                     KEMH GP referral guidelines

For risk assessment and management guidelines

Cancer Australia Guidelines "Familial Risk Assessment -Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Cancer Australia Guidelines " Advice about familial aspects of Breast cancer and epithelial ovarian cancer a guide for health professionals"

Cancer Council " Recommendations for Screening and surveillance for specific cancer

Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Inherited Predisposition



Other steps to reduce individual's risk of developing ovarian cancer include, reducing ovulation such  as pregnancy and breastfeeding, using the combined oral contraceptive pill, lifestyle factors such as reducing weight, exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet  .

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