High-Risk Ovarian Cancer Program

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If your family history puts you at high risk of ovarian cancer, you need answers. At UVA Health, you'll find advanced genetic counseling and testing so we can gauge your personal risk. From there, we can design a targeted strategy to keep you cancer-free.

Having high-risk ovarian cancer experts dedicated to your personal risk of ovarian cancer can bring clarity. We can help you untangle the complicated factors that impact your future.

U.S. News & World Report has named our cancer services as “high performing.” This puts us in the top 10% of the country. They've also specifically named our ovarian cancer surgery procedures as “high performing.” 

Who's at Risk of Ovarian Cancer?

Up to 20% of ovarian cancers have inherited origins. That means someone in your family has had ovarian cancer. You might be born with a gene that causes cancer.

The other 80% happen due to a random gene mutation. In these cancers, the change occurs, and we don't know why.

Other factors that increase your risk of ovarian cancer:

  • Family history of pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, or colon cancer
  • Infertility
  • No pregnancies
  • Endometriosis
  • Early onset of menstrual periods (before age 12)
  • Late menopause

Understanding the Genes that Increase Your Risk of Ovarian Cancer

Two gene mutations cause most cases of inherited ovarian cancer. These genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 ("Breast cancer 1 gene" and "Breast cancer 2 gene") cause breast cancer, too. With these genes, you're 3 to 7 times more likely to get cancer than without them. They also tend to make cancer happen early in life.

You're more likely to have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations and a high risk of ovarian cancer if you or your family members have or have had:

  • Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish heritage
  • Many cases of breast cancer
  • Cases of both breast and ovarian cancer
  • Two different kinds of cancer tumors in different parts of the body

Breast and ovarian cancers are connected. If needed, you can get extra care from our High-Risk Breast & Ovarian Cancer program.

The Role of Genetic Counseling

Our genetic counselors play a critical role in helping determine your risk of ovarian cancer.

Genetic counseling requires a deep dive into your family medical history. Belonging to a family with a history of cancer doesn't mean you'll have it. Other genes can cause cancer in the ovaries. Families with a high rate of cancer may have other genetic factors at play.

This is why we need to know more than your family history to know your risk. We also perform blood tests. We look for markers of genes that have changed.

A thorough picture helps us understand next steps when you're at high risk of ovarian cancer.

Treatment for High-Risk Ovarian Cancer

We're here to help you manage your risk of ovarian cancer. This isn't a one-time visit. As a patient in our program, your care is ongoing.

In our program you can feel confident that we're covering all the bases. We'll stay up to date on your health through:

  • Cancer screenings
  • Checkups to track your health

Then we explore your options for lowering your risk of ovarian cancer.

Prevention Options

To reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, keep yourself healthy. You should try to:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Keep yourself relaxed and stress-free


These drugs stop cancer before it happens or returns, by:

  • Preventing mutations that can cause cancer
  • Stopping mutations from growing out of control

Chemoprevention isn't the same as chemotherapy. Chemotherapy kills cells that have already mutated and become cancerous. Preventive drugs stop cells from becoming cancerous.

Birth Control Pills to Reduce Risk of Ovarian Cancer

Birth control pills can decrease ovarian cancer by up to 50% if used for five years. They also lower the risk of endometrial cancer.

Surgery to Prevent Ovarian Cancer

If you have a very high risk of ovarian cancer, you might consider surgery. Removing your ovaries and fallopian tubes could save your life. This kind of preventive surgery ends any chance of cancer.

Only those who carry a genetic mutation tend to choose surgery.

Learn more about treatments, symptoms, and types of ovarian cancer.