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July 8, 2015 / 21 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

The Legacy of our Mothers

Friday, May 10th, 2013

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.

Ten of Thousands at Funeral of Son of Rav Ovadia Yosef

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Tens of thousands of people participated Friday afternoon in the funeral procession of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the eldest son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and of the most influential rabbis in Israel.

Yaakov Yosef died Friday afternoon at the age of 66, succumbing to a long struggle with cancer, after being hospitalized at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. He was buried in Jerusalem before the start of Shabbat.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mourned the loss of Yosef, calling him “a great teacher and adjudicator of Jewish law who followed in the path of his father.

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger, eulogized Yosef, saying his passing is “a great loss to the people of Israel, to the land of Israel, and to the world of halacha.”

Yosef, the rabbi of the Haredi Givat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem and of the Hazon Yaakov Yeshiva, was one of the most influential right-wing rabbis

Hebrew U Professor Chosen for American Cancer Research Award

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has chosen Prof. Alexander Levitzki of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as the winner of its 2013 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research.

The AACR is currently holding its annual meeting through Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Levitzki, professor of biological chemistry at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the HebrewUniversity, will deliver his award lecture there on Tuesday afternoon on “Eradicating Tumors by Targeting Nonviral Vectors Carrying PolyIC.”

The AACR said that Levitzki was chosen for the honor in recognition of his contributions to signal transduction therapy and his work on the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors as effective agents against cancer.

Levitzki’s concept of targeted cancer therapy using protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors is extensively used by the pharmaceutical industry worldwide to develop anticancer drugs.

His method of large-scale screening of synthetic compounds tested against a large spectrum of protein kinases for specificity, followed by systematic testing in cell lines and animal studies, became the standard procedure in most of the laboratories working in that field.

Levitzki has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Israel Prize in Biochemistry, the Wolf Prize for Medicine, the Hamilton-Fairley Award from the European Society of Medical Oncology, the Rothschild Prize in Biology and two Prostate Cancer Foundation Research Awards. Last year he received the Nauta Award in Pharmacochemistry, which is the highest award from the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry.

Hizbullah Denies Syria Rebels’ Claim They Hit Nasrallah’s Deputy

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Syrian rebels have claimed that they wounded Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s top deputy in the bombing of a Syrian army convoy, but Hizbullah immediately denied it.

A Lebanese newspaper reported that rebels said Naim Qassem was with senior army officers loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad when the explosion hit the convoy on the Damascus-Beirut highway.

Nasrallah is scheduled to make a speech Wednesday night to squelch a report by the Turkish Anatolia News Agency that he flew to Tehran for medical treatment, Lebanese sources said he suffers from cancer.

“Such news is totally incorrect, and Nasrallah did not leave the country,” Hizbullah sources said.

Heeb Magazine Gets Serious

Friday, December 7th, 2012

In a departure from their usual irreverence and not so kosher antics,  Heeb Magazine, the infamous humor magazine for unaffiliated Jews,  has appealed to the wider Jewish community to support former Heeb publisher Joshua Neuman’s short indie film, Johnny Physical Lives. The film is about his younger brother Jonathan, and his fight with leukemia.

Neuman explains the goal of his film as follows:

 “In the U.S. alone, more than 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. While overall survival rates have improved during the past 25 years, for those between the ages of 15 and 29, survival rates have worsened. In addition, young adults with cancer face their own distinct set of emotional challenges, finding themselves utterly dependent at a time in their lives when they’re supposed to be asserting their independence. I want to shine a light on this demographic (young adults with cancer) while creating a tribute to my late brother’s courage and creativity.”

This project is in the running for a consultation with the Tribeca Film Institute, and if they win, it will add weight to Neuman’s goals for the project.

If you’re interested, you can vote for Johnny Physical Lives on the IndieWire site. Voting ends on Friday, December 8th.

In Time For Winter, Israeli National Archives Release PM Golda Meir’s Recipe for Chicken Soup

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Golda Meir, Israel’s only female prime minister to date, wasn’t just known for being a sagacious rhetorician, a stalwart Zionist or a gritty pioneer – she was also lovingly considered Israel’s grandmother during her term from 1969 to 1974.

Though analysts and private citizens may be critical of her decisions and policies as prime minister, the National Archives, has now enabled Israelis and lovers of Israel to consider for themselves whether her chicken soup is worthy.

Golda passed away on December 8, 1978 (the 8th of Kislev) from lymphatic cancer.

My Machberes

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Igud Horabbonim At
Maimonides Medical Center

Rabbi Yaakov Spivak

The monthly Rosh Chodesh Conference of the Rabbinical Alliance of America (Igud Horabbonim) was held at the Eighth Avenue cancer healing headquarters of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn on Thursday, November 15.

The conference, billed as a “Cancer Awareness Symposium,” was addressed by the preeminent ontologists of MMC. In addition, Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, Rav and Rosh Kollel Ashyl Avraham of Monsey, New York, discussed halachas pertaining to hurricanes and times of danger.

MMC’s Recent Achievements

In 2007, The New York Times reported that an analysis of nearly 5,000 hospitals by the Department of Health and Human Services ranked Maimonides Medical Center among hospitals with the lowest mortality rates.

In 2010 Maimonides received the HealthGrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence, ranking it among the top five percent of hospitals in the nation for overall quality outcomes.

Maimonides is also listed among the top five hospitals in New York State for cardiology services, coronary interventional procedures, stroke treatment, and gastrointestinal medical services.

Maimonides has been widely credited for its Cancer Center; its Infants & Children’s Hospital, which handles more births than any other hospital in the state of New York; its ACE unit, which focuses on elderly patients, their families, and their home environments; its Jaffe Stroke Center, which earned the HealthGrades Stroke Care Excellence Award for 2008, 2009 and 2010; and its Cardiac Institute, which was presented with the HealthGrades Cardiac Care Excellence Award in 2009 and 2010 and the HealthGrades Coronary Intervention Excellence Award in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Cancer Awareness Symposium

Dr. Jay Cooper

Addressing the Igud’s member rabbis at the conference were Dr. Jay S. Cooper, MD, Cancer Center director and chairman of radiation oncology; Dr. Alan. B. Astrow, MD, hematology and medical oncology director; D. Loren J. Harris, thoracic surgery chief; and Dr. Patrick Borgen, MD, Brooklyn Breast Cancer Program director. Respectively, they discussed: “Why is a Cancer Center Important?”; “Principles of Doctor-Patient Communication in Cancer Treatment”; High Risk Lung Cancer Screening”; and the “Role of Technology in Curing Breast Cancer.”

Dr. Patrick Borgen

The session was organized by Douglas Jablon, MMC’s tireless vice president of patient relations and volunteer services, and coordinated by Dina Alabanese, MMC’s talented administrative manager/event planner. As Igud director, this writer served as chairman.

Advances in Cancer Detection and Treatment

The doctors reviewed and described major advances in cancer detection. Maimonides possesses one of only three 360-degree mammography image machines, which capture images from every degree, as opposed to others that capture images of only one or two positions. (Interestingly, Israeli scientists developed the first truly computerized no-radiation diagnostic instrument for breast cancer.) Even the tiniest irregularities are quickly identified and appropriate treatment effectively applied.

The concept of screening target populations was discussed. Those who would most benefit from lung cancer detection have a history of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for thirty years or two packs a day for fifteen. Those regularly exposed to secondary smoke are also candidates. Regular checks and early detection would identify irregularities and allow for optimum treatment.

Susceptibility of Eastern European Jews

Dr. Alan Astrow

The susceptibility Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews to Tay-Sachs disease was established in the late 1800s. The Dor Yeshorim organization organized genetic testing for Ashkenazi Jews and the disease has been practically eliminated among the target population.

The higher rate of breast cancer among Eastern European Jews and their descendants is of major concern to the medical community. Testing is available to detect mutation of the BRCR 1 and BRCR 2 genes, which may cause breast cancer.

As with lung cancer, early detection and treatment saves lives and neutralizes health challenges. Those who should be carefully monitored are daughters, 40 years of age and older, of a mother who had ovarian or breast cancer. Maimonides, with its advanced mammography screening and imaging, does a tremendous job serving those in the community who need monitoring.

Stigmas and Shidduchim

Dr. Loren Harris

Marriageable girls outnumber marriageable boys in the frum community, a situation that leaves thousands of girls without potential matches. Many parents worry that a family history of cancer or other diseases will result in their daughters being stigmatized, thus diminishing their shidduch potential. Maimonides Cancer Center provides heightened doctor-patient communication with complete confidentiality.

Halachas of Hurricanes and Dangerous Times

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/my-machberes/my-machberes-44/2012/11/21/

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