The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is joining state and national partners to raise awareness of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers (HBOC) this week, September 25-October 1, 2016, proclaimed Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week by Governor Rick Snyder. Occurring between national awareness months for ovarian cancer in September and breast cancer in October, HBOC Week highlights the connection between hereditary forms of ovarian and breast cancer.
“If you have a personal or family history of cancer, we urge you to tell your health care provider about this history,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS. “Talking with a trained professional, such as a board-certified genetic counselor, is especially important if you or your family member was diagnosed with breast cancer at or before age 50, diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age, or have had more than one type of primary cancer.”
HBOC is primarily due to changes in the BRCA and other genes. Most of the estimated 25,000 Michigan residents who carry a BRCA mutation are not aware that they are at higher risk of developing hereditary cancer. There are ways to reduce cancer risk and save more lives, and one of the first steps to consider is cancer genetic counseling. Cascade screening, which helps identify at-risk relatives, is an important measure toward preventing cancer in those at-risk family members.
Mollie Smith, founder of BRCAn’t Stop Me, Michigan Cancer Genetics Alliance (MCGA) member, and Miss Wayne County 2016, learned she was positive for the BRCA 2 mutation when she was 19 years old.
“Cascade screening saves lives. I have seen it save lives in my own family,” said Smith. “Because my family was successful at informing each other about the BRCA gene mutation, we have been able to prevent ourselves from developing cancer. My mom had a prophylactic mastectomy which showed precancerous cells forming. If she hadn’t had this surgery, she may not be here with us today. Knowledge is power, and it truly does save lives.”
Raising awareness of HBOC and other hereditary cancers is part of an ongoing five-year cooperative agreement between the CDC and MDHHS to increase the use of best practices in cancer genomics in the state. Michigan aims to achieve the Healthy People 2020 objective of increasing the proportion of women with a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer who receive genetic counseling. Among MDHHS’s partners in this work are MCGA, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), cancer genetics clinics in Michigan, and local public health offices.
To learn more about HBOC and hereditary cancers, visit: www.michigan.gov/hereditarycancer. A directory of cancer genetic counseling clinics in Michigan can be found at: https://migrc.org/Library/MCGA/MCGADirectory.html.