7Healthcast: Ovarian cancer - WHDH-TV 7News Boston

7Healthcast: Ovarian cancer

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UNDATED (NBC) - As many as one in four hundred women test positive for the BRCA1 gene, often called the "breast cancer gene."

They have not only a significantly increased risk for breast cancer, but also for ovarian cancer.

Now a new study suggests if women with this gene want to lower their risk for ovarian cancer drastically, they need to have their ovaries removed by age 35.

Catrina Armstrong's bedroom now serves as a memorial.

This is where her family comes to remember the life she lived before she died of breast cancer. She was just 32.

"She went through so much, and had she not, it could be me, who at 30 got the news that I had breast cancer,” said Nicole Armstrong, patient.

It was through Catrina's diagnosis that her younger sister Nicole learned they are carriers of the inherited breast cancer gene.

Nicole had both her breasts removed preventively, but at age 28 and without children, she has held off on having her ovaries taken out.

"Having my ovaries removed is a big fear of mine,” Nicole said.

Now a new study of five thousand BRCA gene carriers recommends those with the BRCA1 mutation have their ovaries removed by age 35, before the risk for developing ovarian cancer starts to climb.

"Removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes really does have a positive impact um on that woman, and reduces her risk of ovarian cancer tremendously and also improves her survival,” said Dr. Ursula Matulonis, Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

The study found those who had their ovaries removed had an eighty percent lower chance for developing ovarian cancer, and an equally low rate of premature death.

But that also means the inability to conceive a child and immediate menopause.

"I feel that my risk is too great to wait and wait and wait and then something happens," said Nicole.

For now Nicole is actively monitoring her risk for ovarian cancer.

She's set a deadline of age 35 to have her ovaries removed, children or not, to make sure her sister's life lesson is honored.


Women with the BRCA2 mutation were able to safely wait until their forties to have their ovaries removed since their risk for ovarian cancer is not as strong.

The study showed the procedure also lowers the risk for breast cancer.

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