With the sea of pink that floods the country every October, it is no surprise that breast cancer has become a part of everyday conversation. What was once a taboo topic has become a mainstream discussion, and rightfully so. When I participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk for breast cancer last year, I met so many people with stories of survival that I felt as if I had learned all their was to know about breast cancer and the BRCA gene. Yet I was so very wrong.
One of the most emotional moments for me personally began at the start of Day 2, as we set out on another 20+ mile walk. As we arrived at a pit stop in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, a 5k to benefit ovarian cancer was about to begin several yards away. We were a sea of pink alongside one of aqua blue. When the runners started up the path nearby, the 3-Day walkers paused in solidarity and gave them a rousing ovation that still brings tears to my eyes.
8 Facts About the BRCA Gene All Women Need to Know
There is a strong link between breast and ovarian cancers, knowledge about the BRCA gene that can save lives. Here are 8 facts about the BRCA gene that all women need to know:
1. There are actually two BRCA genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are involved with cell growth, cell division, and cell repair.
2. Although these BRCA genes are most commonly associated with Breast Cancer, approximately 15% of women with ovarian cancer also have BRCA gene mutations.
3. Most women associate BRCA testing with a family history of the disease. However, nearly one half of women with ovarian cancer who are BRCA-positive have no significant family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
4. Therefore, women who test positive for having BRCA gene mutations not only have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, they also have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
5. In the general population, just 1% of women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Yet up to 40% of women with BRCA mutations will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime.
6. BRCA status in ovarian cancer affects treatment outcomes, and there are treatment options available specifically for women with BRCA mutations.
7. Over two thirds (71%) of BRCA-positive ovarian cancer patients are aged 50 or older.
8. Many people fear the testing process, but BRCA tests are quite simple. A blood or saliva sample can be taken at your physician’s office or at a local lab. Results are usually available in 2 to 3 weeks.
How You Can Help:
– Spread the word about the importance of BRCA testing and the link between breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The more people know, the more proactive they may be with their care. Use the hashtag #beBRCAware on your social channels. You can also follow along for more information via Twitter (@beBRCAware), Facebook, (https://www.facebook.com/pages/beBRCAware/) or YouTube (http://bit.ly/1e0ZYCN).
– Encourage friends and loved once to get tested for the BRCA gene, especially if they have been diagnosed with either breast or ovarian cancer. National guidelines recommend that all patients with epithelial ovarian cancer be considered for BRCA testing, regardless of family history, age, or ethnicity. Despite these guidelines, every year many patients with ovarian cancer are not tested for a BRCA mutation.For women with ovarian cancer, Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance carriers cover the BRCA testing.
– Tell anyone with questions or those who want more information to visit myocjourney.com, to get information about diagnosis, BRCA gene testing, treatment plans, and support networks.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the Unites States in 2015, and that a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 73. For the 60% of ovarian cancer patients whose cancer has spread to other organs by the time of diagnosis, the five-year survival rate is only 27%. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and is often diagnosed late because symptoms mirror everyday ailments.
The BRCA gene is not just the breast cancer gene. It is also the ovarian cancer gene. Hopefully, someday soon, BRCA testing will be readily available not just for those diagnosed with one or another, and not just for those with a family history, but for all women.
Aren’t all women worth saving?
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