SPECIAL FOR THE AJT //
It’s The Journey, a non-profit organization that holds the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer each year, partners with Piedmont Genetics and the Emory Clinic to offer genetic testing and counseling for the BRCA gene mutation.
The issues surrounding the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes have been in the news recently after actress Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy after learning she was at risk. She is of course just the most well-known example of those affected; in fact, one in 40 women of Ashkenazi descent have the mutation, which dramatically increases the risk of breast cancer.
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“If someone has a strong family history with multiple family members diagnosed with breast cancer, especially if diagnosed under the age of 50, we suggest that they meet with a genetic counselor,” said Christine Stanislaw, a genetic counselor at the Emory Clinic Department of Human Genetics.
Molly Klein, a genetic counselor at Piedmont Genetics, thinks that women of Ashkenazi ancestry – even with no history of cancer – might want to consider genetic counseling and, possibly, testing.
However, genetic testing is expensive. Basic testing can cost around $500, and more expansive testing can cost a staggering $4,040. Unfortunately, that means many women simply can’t afford to be tested.
That’s why Piedmont Hospital and the Emory Clinic have partnered with the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, making genetic testing and counseling available to people who are at risk for hereditary breast cancer, regardless of their financial situation.
In addition to breast cancer, women with a BRCA mutation are at greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. That’s why it’s so important to develop a prevention and treatment plan.
“It’s important to stay on top of the increased risk with mammograms and breast MRIs every six months,” Stanislaw said. “The earlier you catch the cancer, the more treatable it is.”
It’s worth noting that genetic testing can also provide an entire family with important information.
“It’s good because it makes you more aware of your risks,” said Martha Insley, who was tested at the Emory Clinic and whose family has the BRCA 2 gene mutation. “It gets you in the habit of receiving mammograms at an earlier age than typically recommended if you have a family history of breast cancer.”
Sarah Popowski, an Atlanta 2-Day board member and breast cancer survivor, also understands the importance of testing.
“I wanted to know for myself as well as provide information for my sister and my nieces,” she said, “so that they would have the knowledge to make an informed decision.”
The Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer raises funds to battle cancer with a 30-mile 2-Day Walk through Atlanta. This year’s walk with be Oct. 5 and 6. Donations raised by walkers fund screening and diagnostic mammograms, counseling, genetic testing and other services for women and men in Georgia. For additional information, visit 2daywalk.org.