Objective: This study examined reports of perceived risk of ovarian cancer, worry, and screening use in a large sample of women. While screening for asymptomatic women is not generally recommended, in 1994 a consensus conference concluded that women with multiple affected relatives are at high risk for ovarian cancer and should be encouraged to participate in screening. The consensus report also suggested that women with a single affected first-degree relative are at elevated risk and while these women were not encouraged to get screening it was suggested that they may choose to pursue screening outside of a randomized trial [NIH Consensus Conference. JAMA 1995;273(6) 491-7].
Methods: A total of 3257 women participated in this research by completing a mailed survey on ovarian cancer risk, worry, and use of screening. One hundred forty-two of these women were at high risk for this disease due to a strong family history. An additional 144 women were at elevated risk due to a single first-degree affected relative with ovarian cancer.
Results: Family history did predict perceived risk, difficulties due to worry, and use of ovarian cancer screening. However, the group of women most likely to report high levels of perceived risk and to have received screening for ovarian cancer were women with a single affected relative rather than those at high risk, for whom screening is recommended.
Conclusions: These results suggest that many women need additional education about ovarian cancer risk. Most women overestimated their risk for this disease. Some average-risk women get screening although it is not recommended outside of randomized trials, and a significant percentage of women at high risk fail to get recommended screening.