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ASK THE EXPERT – Signs of a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in a family by Amy Yoffe

Amy YoffeeWhen you think about your family’s medical history, do you notice any patterns of cancer?  Perhaps you’ve heard stories about a great-grandmother who passed away from breast cancer at only 35 years old.  Or you recall hearing stories about your grandmother being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  You’re certain that both of your grandmother’s sisters died of ovarian cancer in their 70’s and that their brother, whom you’ve never met, battled stomach cancer.  As you start to put these pieces together, you might wonder if this is a pattern that could one day impact your own health…

Signs of a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in a family include, but are not limited to, any family member with:

  • Ovarian cancer at any age
  • Breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • Breast cancer in both breasts at any age
  • Both breast and ovarian cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and breast cancer at any age

More than one relative on the same side of the family with any of these cancers:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Melanoma

When patients are concerned that they might be at high risk for hereditary breast -ovarian cancer syndrome, the best first step is to meet with a Genetic Counselor who can help determine the need for genetic testing.

Individuals who are faced with having a genetic mutation, might feel confused and overwhelmed as they work to process what this means.  They may need education and support while trying to understand the range of options available.  FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) is the only National Organization dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.  FORCE offers quarterly support meetings which provide an opportunity to meet others who know what you’re going through, to ask questions, learn or just listen in a safe and supportive environment.

Amy Yoffe, LCSW is a Peer Support Group Leader for the West Valley/Ventura Chapter of FORCE, and a BRCA1+ Previvor.

Next Upcoming Support Meeting:  Sunday, May 7th from 10:30am-2:00pm.

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