2011-09-22 / Healthy Living

FORCE hopes to raise awareness of gene mutations for breast, ovarian cancer

SPECIAL TO FLORIDA WEEKLY


Amy Byer Shainman is volunteer outreach coodinator for FORCE in Palm Beach County. Her great-grandmother and paternal grandmother had breast cancer, and her sister had ovarian and uterine cancer. She chose to have preventive surgeries to reduce her cancer risk. 
courtesy photo Amy Byer Shainman is volunteer outreach coodinator for FORCE in Palm Beach County. Her great-grandmother and paternal grandmother had breast cancer, and her sister had ovarian and uterine cancer. She chose to have preventive surgeries to reduce her cancer risk. courtesy photo You may have your dad’s eyes and your mom’s smile, but you can also inherit risk for cancer from either parent. Some families carry a genetic change known as a mutation in genes called BRCA 1 or BRCA 2.

These gene changes can cause a very high risk for breast and ovarian cancer to run in the family.

Hereditary breast and ovarian cancers have aggressively attacked generations of families and FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered is the only national nonprofit dedicated to awareness, advocacy, research and support for those affected by these cancers.

National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Week marks the transition between National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The goal of HBOC Week and Previvor Day is to raise awareness about hereditary cancer.

During this week, from Sep. 25 through Oct. 2, FORCE is recognizing and celebrating those who have been affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, including women and men with BRCA mutations, anyone with a family history of cancer, breast and ovarian cancer survivors, and previvors — individuals who are living with a very high risk for cancer but have not developed the disease.

FORCE received a proclamation from the Palm Beach County Commission marking National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Week and National Previvor Day.

In addition, Palm Beach County’s FORCE group will be celebrating with special events.

An ‘Evening of Wine Tasting’ fundraiser at Total Wine in Palm Beach Gardens is Sept. 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 and are available for purchase online at forcetotalwinetasting. eventbrite.com.

A family bowling fundraiser will be held Dec. 3 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Jupiter at Jupiter Lanes. Tickets are available for purchase online at forcebowling4brca.eventbrite.com.

In addition, FORCE groups around the country will be celebrating with special events, including a Passing of the Torch ceremony at a Washington Nationals baseball game in Washington, D.C.; a Union Soccer Team game in Philadelphia; a Previvor Day Art Exhibit in Phoenix, and a Kickin’ Cancer Walk/ Run in Los Angeles.

“Through awareness and education, the more than 750,000 people in the United States who carry the positive BRCA gene mutation can take steps to prevent cancer from continuing to impact the next generations. Today, an estimated 90 percent of those people do not know they carry this gene mutation,” said Amy Byer Shainman, volunteer outreach coordinator for FORCE in Palm Beach County, in a prepared statement. “We want families to pass down recipes, photos and memories to the next generation, not the risk of cancer.”

Ms. Shainman is a previvor. Her great-grandmother had breast cancer. Her grandmother died of breast cancer at the age of 33. She watched her sister battle both ovarian and uterine cancer.

All of this prompted her to seek counseling where she ultimately tested positive for a BRCA1 genetic mutation. She inherited the mutation from her father.

Last year she chose to have preventive surgeries to drastically reduce her cancer risk.

Her one sister and one of her two brothers tested positive for the gene mutation as well.

Ms. Shainman has two children who each have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutation.

in the know

>>FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Founded in 1999, FORCE serves thousands of families with support, education, advocacy, awareness and research specific to the needs of this community. For more information about FORCE, see facingourrisk.org.

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