The Prevent Ovarian Cancer Program (POCP) is an initiative that aims to identify women at high risk for ovarian cancer and offer them the opportunity to reduce that risk.
Up to 20% of ovarian cancers are passed down through family members. This means that women with a family history of ovarian cancer may be at increased risk of developing the disease themselves. If we know that a woman is at high risk for developing ovarian cancer, there are steps she can take to prevent the cancer from developing in the first place. Our mission is to find these women by testing for gene changes (also known as mutations) that may otherwise not be discovered under current Ontario Ministry of Health genetic testing guidelines.
You can participate in the POCP from home. This means you will not have to come to the Princess Margret Cancer Centre in Toronto to be part of this program. If you need additional support or information during the program, we will connect you to resources in your community.
Through this program, genetic counselling and genetic testing will be available to 500 women living in Ontario who have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with a confirmed diagnosis of a specific type of ovarian cancer called high-grade serous ovarian cancer (or “HGSC” for short), but that do not currently qualify for genetic testing through the Ontario Ministry of Health.
Participation in this program is a multi-step process that is outlined in Do I Qualify? and What is the Process? Your participation will help determine if you have an increased risk for ovarian cancer, and if so, provide you with options for reducing that risk. This life saving information may prevent you, or someone you love, from developing ovarian cancer in the future.
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest female cancer
HGSC is the most common type of ovarian cancer and is almost always diagnosed at an advanced stage. Only 30% of women diagnosed with HGSC live more than five years and 90% eventually die from the disease. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to screen for HGSC or to detect it at an early stage.
Specific genetic mutations make it more likely for a woman to develop ovarian cancer. Fortunately, ovarian cancer can be prevented through surgery for women known to be at high risk. The two most important genes known to increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Genetic mutations can be passed on through families. This means that a first-degree relative – mother, sister or daughter – of a woman with ovarian cancer who has a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes has a 50% chance of having the same mutation. Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes or in other ovarian cancer risk genes can be identified through genetic testing.
Up to 20% of women with HGSC have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. In the past, many women with ovarian cancer did not go for genetic testing. Because we know that ovarian cancer can be passed on from a first-degree relative, we also know that there may be many women who are unaware that they are at risk for ovarian cancer simply because their relative was never tested.