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Women at highest risk for ovarian cancer are less likely to be screened than those at lower risk

SEATTLE - Women at highest risk for ovarian cancer receive less screening and report less worry about getting the disease than women with a lower yet somewhat elevated risk, according to researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

M. Robyn Andersen, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant member of Fred Hutchinson's Public Health Sciences Division, and colleagues reported their findings in the April issue of Gynecologic Oncology.

"Women most likely to report high levels of perceived risk and to get screening for ovarian cancer are those at elevated risk who have a single relative affected with ovarian cancer, as compared to high-risk women with multiple family members affected by breast and/or ovarian cancer," Andersen said.

"These results suggest that many women need additional education about ovarian-cancer risk. We found that the majority of women overestimate their risk and yet a significant percentage of those at highest risk fail to get the recommended screening."

The findings were based on a survey of 3,257 women designed to measure the relationship between perceived ovarian-cancer risk, worry and screening use. The participants averaged 48 years of age and were well educated; nearly 70 percent had graduated from college.

Of those surveyed, 142 were at high risk due to a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer and 144 women were at elevated risk due to a single first-degree relative with ovarian cancer. The remaining 2,971 women were considered average risk.

The survey revealed significant differences in screening rates between women at high and elevated risk. While more than 60 percent of those at elevated risk reported having undergone screening, less than half (47 percent) of the high-risk women said they had been tested for ovarian cancer.

"Most of the highest-risk women for ovarian cancer are at very high risk because their relatives have had breast cancer, not ovarian cancer," And
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Contact: Kristen Woodward
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org
206-667-5095
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
7-May-2002


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