Thursday, September 17, 2009

Genes and Breast Cancer

By Deb Kirkland, RN, BSN, MPH
Nurse Navigator, Herman & Walter Samuelson Breast Center at Northwest Hospital

Cancer is caused by mutations in our genes. Sometimes our body can repair these changes, but other times it cannot. About 90 percent of cancers result from changes that occur over our lifetime. The other 7-10 percent of breast cancer is actually caused by specific hereditary genes that have been identified as the BRCA1 and BRCA2.

These genes are associated with breast and ovarian cancers. One in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women express this particular gene mutation. They are dominant genes, meaning they may be passed on from either the paternal or maternal side of the family. Carrying these genes may increase one’s risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

With breast cancer there is screening for early detection, and in the event one is diagnosed with breast cancer, we have many treatment options available that increase the likelihood of survival. However, ovarian cancer, which may advance without warning, is often detected later, and treatment options unfortunately tend not to be as effective.

So what does this mean for you? If you have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, you may want to consider genetic counseling or genetic testing. Discussing your risk with a counselor can help clarify whether genetic testing is right for you. Another helpful resource is the Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) Web site.

Please join us at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 15 at Northwest Hospital to hear a presentation on Genetics and Breast Cancer, given by Leslee Gold, RN, our local FORCE representative. In addition, a personal story will be shared by a young breast cancer survivor who carries this gene. Hear first-hand how this gene impacts her life. This talk will be held in the Owings-Reister Room and dinner will be provided. Please RSVP 410-521-8831 if you are interested in joining us.

If you are interested in genetic testing, call 410-601-WELL to set up your appointment.

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