Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hereditary Cancer and Cancer Genetics

Hereditary Cancer and Cancer Genetics:

'via Blog this'

This week is being celebrated as National HBOC (Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer) Week. Additionally, today especially is Previvor Day. This has so much significance to me personally and to all those who are affected by these cancers in their family. The definition of Previvor: (n) A survivor of a predisposition (or increased risk) for a disease such as cancer.  I am a Previvor and grateful for the chance to be here to participate in the week and the day itself.

Today is also the beginning of Rosh Hashana, quite literally, the head of the year. It is the beginning of the Jewish New Year, 5772 by the Jewish calendar. I am very proud of my Jewish Heritage and this is a time of year for family and reflection. It is said that God reviews our lives between now and 11 days on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. While we as Jews confess our sins of the past year, we ask God to forgive us and inscribe us in the Book of Life for the coming year. I have many items to check off on my list, I am not a perfect person after all, and hope God can see the way clear to forgive me.

So what ties HBOC Week to the High Holidays? Being of Ashkenazi descent and my immediate ancestors are from Eastern Europe gives me a greater chance of inheriting one of the three founder genes that increase my risk of Breast or Ovarian cancer. This is not to say those out there of similar lineage are at similar risk, after all, one needs to be tested and that is why I posted the link at the beginning of my blog. There are certain signs that if you have them in your family, should point you to visit with a Genetics Counselor and get started asking about genetic testing.

Statistics show that ethnic groups such as Ashkenazi Jews, French Canadians, African Americans, those of Norwegian descent have a higher risk of carrying either the BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutation. My risk was one in 40 to be carrying the mutation. This is 10 times the chance of someone in the general public. Additionally, 40% of Jewish women with ovarian or fallopian tube cancer will carry one of the BRCA mutations and 20% of Jewish women with breast cancer the same.

Remember, that this is not related at all to the gene that determines your sex, so these genetic mutations can be passed on from either side of the family since you get one BRCA gene from each parent. My BRCA2 mutation that I carry came from my father's side, he had breast cancer as did his mother and grandmother. One 1st cousin also had ovarian cancer and that is what lead to our testing as a family. If this is the case or similar, please get to a genetic counselor. If you cannot locate one, the National Society of Genetics Counselors ( has a look-up tool to help locate one in your area. They are an integral part in helping you all through this journey. I have to say, I have spoken to 3 different counselors along the way from 3 different hospitals through FORCE events and my own experiences. Each had so much input and assistance to help me as well as my family. They explained genetic counseling, help understand the family history and how it relates to you and point you toward resources and tools.

One more aspect of Rosh Hashana is Change. As in the secular New Year, we make resolutions. My changes to make for the coming year are several fold. I want to earn more money so we are more self-reliant. I want to try and be healthier. I want to learn more to do at work and cross train. I want to volunteer more with FORCE and spread the word about hereditary cancer to save more lives.

I pray that I can accomplish these things and with God's help and my determination I will!

L'Shana Tovah Tikateiv Veteichateim, A Sweet New Year and May You be Inscribed in the Book of Life.

Love and hugs,

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