Saturday, April 20, 2013

Family Ties

Ovarian Cancer is a women’s disease True or False. Very much False.

More than 80 genetic 'spelling mistakes' of DNA that can increase the risk of breast, prostate and ovarian cancer have been discovered. And remember breast cancer is not just pink but also can affect men. It is essential to track your genetic family history of both the women and men. Science Daily reports, "For the first time, the researchers also have a relatively clear picture of the total number of genetic alterations that can be linked to these cancers."

No one is immune to genetic deviations, we all have them – the affect is dependent on where they are found on the DNA. Finding the misspellings for Ovarian Cancer, some of which are more prevalent than  BRAC1 and BRAC2, has a trifold outcome: the ability to calculate the individual risk of cancer, to better understand how Ovarian Cancer develops, and to be able to generate new, personalized treatments. This research could lead to better screening and prevention strategies. Understanding the risks helps you make informed choices based on your personal risk factors.

"Our hope is that these genetic variants, along with established epidemiologic factors, such as reproductive history, will not only enhance our ability to predict which women are at increased risk for developing this highly fatal disease, but will also provide new insight into the underlying biology and pathogenesis of ovarian cancer," said epidemiologist Joellen Schildkraut, PhD, director of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences program at Duke Cancer Institute.

Understanding your risk and the confidence to fight for the empowerment of your health care is the subject of the new independent film Decoding Annie Parker. Helen Hunt plays geneticist Mary Clair King, the researcher who isolated the BRAC1 gene, entwined with the story of Annie Parker’s attempts to convince everyone of what she believed in her heart after watching her mother and sister die – that the disease was not random and that she was at risk to develop breast cancer. Help spread the word about Annie Parker. It is a fresh outlet to encourage the conversations about tracing the roots of the family tree and speaking up for your care.

These are personal stories of how the Scrabble game of our DNA plays out. We would like to think that we have 100% control over our bodies, that if we just lived the holistic life, we would be disease free. Once we know the facts, we can ask for as much control as we can to manage our own risks.
Even if you don’t think that your family is at risk, make sure you know all the factors and include all sides and members of your family tree – both men and women.

Men should be as diligent as women to share Ovarian Cancer symptoms and encourage those who have symptoms to seek medical attention. With the most prevalently age of diagnosis over 55, when the symptoms could be construed as menopause or stress, too many women will not put themselves first, delaying possible diagnosis. Take care of the women you love.

Keep giving to Ovarian Cancer research causes. There are tangible results from programs such as those at the Duke University and Dr. Andrew Berchuck and the work of real life "stars" like Mary Claire King, and Washington University fellow, Elizabeth Swisher. The potential for breakthroughs exists every day.

Ovarian Cancer is not a woman’s issue. The common ancestry of our shared bloodline makes it is part of our family ties.

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