Isn’t everyone already aware of breast cancer and the threat it poses, particularly to Ashkenazi Jewish women? Not yet. And that’s why Breast Cancer Awareness Month, being marked in October, is so important. It is the time designated to focus attention on the disease and steps that should be taken for early detection.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Ashkenazi Jewish women are more susceptible because of the higher incidence of mutations to the BRCA gene, which under normal circumstances suppresses the growth of tumors. One in 400 women are BRCA-positive. But among Ashkenazi Jews, there is a 1 in 40 chance of having a BRCA mutation, which increases that person’s lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer up to 84 percent.
So it is necessary to be aware, and we urge Ashkenazi Jewish women in particular to consider getting tested for the BRCA 1 and 2 mutations. Experts advise that one should do her homework first to learn about family history and the options available if the test results are positive.
While BRCA testing involves complicated emotional and medical considerations, there are other ways to limit the chances of getting breast cancer that do not. Regular exercise, healthy eating and getting enough sleep help avert the illness. “Only up to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are due to a genetic mutation,” says Dr. Marisa Weiss, president of Breastcancer.org. “Ninety percent are due to how you lead your life.”
We and our readers are all too familiar with the toll breast cancer takes on those who are diagnosed and on their friends and their family members. Almost all of us know someone who has either suffered or now suffers from the disease. At a time when almost any challenge seems conquerable, the gold standards of 100 percent early detection and 100 percent effective treatment remain far away.
So if you or your loved one hasn’t considered the threat from breast cancer, consider getting tested. Make lifestyle changes. And above all, do what you can to help make future victims survivors.