Angelina, I admire you

Wednesday, May 15

Angelina Jolie revealed here this week that she has had a double mastectomy, as she is at a very high risk of developing breast cancer.  She lost her Mother to breast cancer, when her Mother was only 56, as a result of the BRCA1 gene, which Jolie also carries.

She has shared her story to raise awareness of her plight, and the fact that many other women may also be in her position.

At one stage last year, I was treating 3 ladies with physio and lymphatic drainage massage after they had breast cancer treatment, who were all younger than me.

And that was really the first time I learnt anything more than just the name of what this mutation involves.

All of these ladies that were 28 years old and younger, carried the gene, and all of them had had family members also affected by breast or ovarian cancer.

And one of them learnt something about her family history through her diagnosis.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are genetic, obviously, and so are passed down through the generations.  They are also five times more likely to be found in people (mainly women) who are descendants are the Ashkenazi Jews. (

Wikipedia says:  Ashkenazi jews are an ethnoreligious group who trace their origins to the indigenous Israelite tribes of Canaan in the Middle East, and probably began settling along the Rhine in Germany, from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north, during the early Middle Ages. Today, "Ashkenazim" is a descriptive term for descendents of these settlers, including those who established vibrant communities in Central Europe centuries later.

The descendants of this Ashkenazi Jewish group, now live all over the world.

I find it fascinating, that all these hundreds of years later, so many people, like the lady I was treating, are finding out their family history roots through their diagnosis.  After her treatment, she did some investigating, and she learned that her Family were in fact descendants of this population.

Now not all breast or ovarian cancers are caused by the BRCA genes, only 5-10% of breast cancers are genetic, and only 3-5% of these are due to BRCA.  And not all carriers of the BRCA genes are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, but you have a five times higher chance of having the gene if you are.

And as Jolie as explained, if you do have the BRCA gene, you are at a considerably higher risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer, and so you may want to take action.

The below information is from the National Cancer Institute in the US.

BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing

Key Points

  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. Mutation of these genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
  • A woman's risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a deleterious (harmful) BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Men with these mutations also have an increased risk of breast cancer. Both men and women who have harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations may be at increased risk of other cancers.
  • Genetic tests are available to check for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. A blood sample is required for these tests, and genetic counseling is recommended before and after the tests.
  • If a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation is found, several options are available to help a person manage their cancer risk.
  • Federal and state laws help ensure the privacy of a person’s genetic information and provide protection against discrimination in health insurance and employment practices.
  • Many research studies are being conducted to find newer and better ways of detecting, treating, and preventing cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. Additional studies are focused on improving genetic counseling methods and outcomes. Our knowledge in these areas is evolving rapidly.
If you are concerned that you may have the BRCA genes, then contact your Doctor for further advice...

And Angelina Jolie, I admire you so much for your bravery and for helping to spread the awareness of this often deadly gene.

Read here how to examine your own breasts.
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