Sooner or later, each of us will find ourselves in a doctor’s waiting room with a clipboard in our laps. On this clipboard will be a very long form or three regarding our medical history. You will be asked if you’ve ever suffered from conditions you’ve never even heard of, and will puzzle over whether having a headache once in a great while counts as a regular condition.
Then you’ll come to the section about cancer. The thing you’ll notice about this is that cancer has its own section in the first place. The next thing you’ll notice is that you will be asked whether you are related to anyone who’s had cancer. If you answer yes, you’ll be asked more questions. The more yes answers, the more questions.
The reason for all this is, of course, the fact that particular types of cancers tend to run in families. If your Aunt Jane died of melanoma and your older sister who plays tennis has had a few cancerous moles removed, then you’ll understand why your doctor might encourage you to have a regular check-up with a dermatologist. But you probably won’t worry about every single freckle or rash, and you probably won’t get a genetic test to determine if you should use sunscreen. That’s because most cancers, even the ones with predictable lifestyle risk factors, are ‘sporadic’ in occurrence. They have no certain pattern to their incidence and no obvious genetic mutation that relates to them.
Breast cancer, however, is different. There are hereditary genetic mutations associated with the occurrence of certain types of breast cancer, as well as with ovarian cancer. These mutations appear most often in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. There are tests to detect them and to assess your likelihood for developing cancer from them. Even if you develop breast cancer with no warning and no apparent family history, you may be tested to see if you have these mutations. If you do, your sisters or daughters or nieces may want to be tested as well.
The average person cannot possibly navigate the minefield of hereditary genetic mutations without a lot of help. That’s where FORCE comes in. FORCE stands for “facing our risk of cancer empowered.” It’s an organization that’s a little like having Princess Leia on your side with a loaded laser blaster and a bunch of Jedi warriors backing you up. It provides women with the power of resources, information, support and options for exploring their risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and determining what to do about it.
By clicking on this icon today, tomorrow or Monday, July 12th, you can give FORCE a chance to receive a significant infusion of funds through the Chase Community Giving Program for 2010. Chase’s Community Giving sponsors “will donate $250,000 to the Charity receiving the most votes, $100,000 to each of the four runner-up Charities, and $20,000 to each of the remaining top 195 Charities receiving the most votes at the end of the Program; provided each winning Charity meets all eligibility requirements and standards. Sponsor will also donate combined total of $500,000 to the eligible Charity or Charities who have received at least one vote and are chosen by an advisory board designated by Sponsor (the “Advisory Board”).” Clicking on the pink and teal icon will take you to a page where you can cast your vote for FORCE. Voting ends 11:59:59 p.m. ET on Monday, 07/12/2010. The votes will be tabulated on 7/13/2010 and the 200 top-voted organizations will be awarded their share of the donations.
It’s daunting to face the knowledge that you have a high risk for developing cancer. But it also gives you the power to head off the cancer monster before it strikes. So, warm up that index finger and click to help FORCE help a sister. Because the sister you help might be you. Hopefully, most of you will never need their help. But if you ever do, may the FORCE be with you.
Here’s a down-loadable PDF Fact Sheet from the National Cancer Institute about BRCA testing and cancer risk.
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