web analytics
September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Legacy of our Mothers

I explain that their cancer diagnosis might have resulted from something they could also have passed down to their children.
female_patient_and_clinician

In my role as genetic counselor, I meet with men, women and families who have personal or family histories of cancer. I take a detailed medical and family history, assess the chance for an hereditary risk for cancer, and recommend appropriate genetic testing. Genetic testing can help identify what that “hereditary factor” is. When the results come back, I interpret them in the context of the family history and help make screening and management recommendations.

Inevitably, the following statement would come up in discussion:

“…and if you carry one of these BRCA mutations, it means that there’s a 50/50 chance that you could have passed it on to your kids…”

That’s the worst part, by far, of my genetic counseling sessions with women who have personal histories of breast or ovarian cancer.

By the time they meet with me, they’ve already started working through some of the issues of accepting a cancer diagnosis and are taking steps towards treatment and, hopefully, recovery. I’m the one who reminds them that this isn’t just about them. I explain that their cancer diagnosis might have resulted from something hereditary that put them at an increased risk for cancer, something that they also could have passed down without intending to. I remind them that it’s not just about their cancer diagnosis; it’s about their daughters’ and granddaughters’ cancer risks in the present and future. I see their faces drop as they start to think about the legacy they may have passed down, one that they wish had stopped with them.

Hereditary cancer risk exists in all populations, but certain types of hereditary cancer risk are more common in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, and this is, unfortunately, a legacy which we need to acknowledge.

Breast cancer is alarmingly common, affecting one in eight women in the United States. Ovarian cancer is less common: it “only” affects one in 70 American women. A diagnosis of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in a family does not automatically point to a hereditary etiology, in fact, most cancers are not hereditary. However, when there are multiple cancer diagnoses in a family, at young ages and with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, there is a drastically increased suspicion of BRCA1/ BRCA2—associated Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.

The role of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in the body is in part to protect us from cancer. However, when there is a mutation or an error in one of these genes, that protection from cancer is diminished. Without the necessary protection, these individuals have much higher cancer risks, up to an 87 percent lifetime risk to develop breast cancer, and up to a 44 percent lifetime risk to develop ovarian cancer.

We are more likely to see BRCA-related cancers develop at younger women, in their 30s and 40s. But the BRCA mutations don’t impact only women—men with BRCA mutations have an increased risk for cancer as well.

As an educator, I speak with communities about family histories and cancer risk. I see women realizing for the first time that they and their families may be at an increased risk for cancer. You see, BRCA mutations are more common in the Ashkenazi community in general. One in 40 individuals of Ashkenazi descent carries a BRCA mutation, regardless of their personal or family history. Once there is a personal or family history of cancer, the chance of carrying a BRCA mutation goes up.

Why would genetic testing and the knowledge of hereditary cancer risk be helpful? In my mind, the clear and obvious answer is: if you know that you are at a high risk for cancer, you can do something about it. More intensive breast and ovarian cancer screening regimens are recommended for women who have BRCA mutations.

These women may also decide to pursue preventive surgical options.

The goal of screening regimens is to catch cancer at an early and treatable stage, whereas preventive surgeries are aimed at reducing the cancer risks. There are even ways to prevent BRCA mutations from being passed on to future generations.

These screening, surgical and reproductive options involve highly personal decisions—but they can be lifesaving decisions. Perhaps that’s the legacy we want to pass on, not one of acceptance of our “genetic fate,” but one of being proactive and taking control of the course of our fate.

This Mother’s Day, speak with your mother, and the other mothers in your life, about the legacy that you want to pass on to your children.

About the Author: Chani Wiesman Berliant, MS, CGC is a genetic counselor with the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University/Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Division of Reproductive Genetics at Montefiore Medical Center. To learn more about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and other Jewish genetic health issues, visit the Program for Jewish Genetic Health’s new GeneSights Jewish Genetics Online Series at www.genesights.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Legacy of our Mothers”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS Released Map
The Ally No One Wants In War Against ISIS: The Jews
Latest Indepth Stories
ISIS Released Map

Israel would love to be in the coalition,but it’s never going to happen, because, in the end, most of America’s allies would walk away if Israel were on board officially.

IDF lone soldier and  David Menachem Gordon (z"l).

Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”?

Starck-091914

SWOT analysis: Assessing resources, internal Strengths&Weaknesses; external Opportunities&Threats.

Kohn-091914

Strategy? For the longest time Obama couldn’t be bothered to have one against a sworn enemy.

Seventeen visual skills are needed for success in school, sports, and everyday life.

We started The Jewish Press. Arnie was an integral part of the paper.

Fear alone is substantial; without fusing it to beauty, fear doesn’t reach its highest potential.

Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.

The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.

Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.

More Articles from Chani Wiesman Berliant

Genetics is one of those fields that may be shrouded in mystery and perhaps even fright. This is because serious genetic problems are very rare, and therefore most people have never needed to delve into the field or meet with a genetics professional. However, as the use of genetic testing is becoming more widespread and genetic technologies and the scientific understanding of genetics advance, so should the community’s understanding of genetics.

female_patient_and_clinician

I explain that their cancer diagnosis might have resulted from something they could also have passed down to their children.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-legacy-of-our-mothers/2013/05/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: