Myriad Genetics, a provider in genetic testing and precision medicine, revealed new nationwide survey results indicating widespread confusion and misconceptions about ovarian cancer screening among a majority of women. 

The Myriad Genetics Cancer Risk survey shows that nearly three out of four women (71%) falsely believe annual pap smears include testing for ovarian cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the “only gynecologic cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer.”

“Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer for women due to the lack of screening techniques available and clinically specific symptoms. Many women believe they only need to visit every 3-5 years if they have a normal pap smear result,” says Ifeyinwa Stitt, MD, OB/GYN and medical director, Luminis Health in Annapolis, MD. “If women incorrectly believe having a normal pap equates to a low chance of ovarian cancer and don’t need an annual visit, this eliminates the opportunity for providers to annually screen for early symptoms and identify through abnormal pelvic exams. Knowledge of predisposing factors and surveillance is imperative to early detection which is key to ovarian cancer survival.” 

While almost half (47%) of the women surveyed believe they are being proactive when it comes to ovarian health, only 38% say they visited an OB-GYN in the past year and 13% say they have taken a genetic test to assess risk for cancer. For those who have not taken a genetic test, many women said they’d be motivated to get a genetic test if they had a high-risk of ovarian cancer based on family medical history (49%) or an immediate family member with ovarian cancer (38%).

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Regardless of risk factors, 71% of the women surveyed believe all women should have genetic testing to determine ovarian cancer risk. Two out of three (66%) agree that knowing their risk will allow them to take more appropriate preventative measures and 58% agree knowing their risk will help their doctor more appropriately plan treatment should they get cancer.

“Our latest survey results underscore the dire need to break down any confusion about ovarian cancer, including symptoms and screening, to help women better understand their cancer risk and how to take appropriate preventative measures,” says Melissa Gonzales, president of women’s health, Myriad Genetics. “Listening to your body, having open conversations with your doctor and knowing your family history are essential in this quest. For women with elevated risk factors, genetic testing can be a helpful tool that provides a cancer risk assessment personalized to them.”