WHEELING - In response to a sharp increase in awareness and questions surrounding the BRCA gene and its link to breast and ovarian cancers, Wheeling Hospital has scheduled a free seminar.
Thursday's seminar will provide information on Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome, a condition that causes an increased risk for those diseases.
The BRCA gene and associated cancers recently topped national news after an Academy Award-winning actress who carries the mutated gene and has a family history of breast and ovarian cancer decided to have a double mastectomy as a preventive measure.
"Knowing if you have a BRCA gene mutation will help you to know your risk of hereditary cancer and inform your family of their potential risk of hereditary cancer," said board-certified breast surgeon Dr. Rose Hardin of Wheeling Hospital's Comprehensive Breast Care Center.
Along with Hardin, a genetic counselor from Myriad Genetic Laboratories Inc., which patented the test, will be available to discuss the guidelines in deciding whether a BRCA analysis is appropriate. Seminar attendees will have the option of completing a risk assessment questionnaire to determine if they should consider genetic testing.
In most cases, insurance covers the cost of genetic analysis if the pre-test criteria are met. No actual BCRA analysis will be performed at the seminar. A question and answer session will clarify questions regarding the gene mutation.
"To understand if breast or ovarian cancer runs in one's family, we have to look at the whole family history, including the father's side," Hardin said. "Breast or ovarian cancer risk isn't just passed from mother to daughter or son. A father can also pass it on to his daughter or son.
"The BRCA analysis, which we can do at the Comprehensive Breast Care Center, involves taking an oral rinse sample. The sample is sent to Myriad and we have the results back in about two weeks."
If a BRCA analysis shows that a woman has the gene mutation, she can start managing the cancer risk through increased surveillance, preventive drug therapy or preventive surgery. Early detection can be life-saving.
The free seminar at Wheeling Hospital will begin at 6 p.m. in the auditorium. Light refreshments will be served and various items will be up for grabs in a drawing. Reservations are requested and can be made by calling (304) 243-5115.
Hardin is among a team of breast surgeons at the hospital's Comprehensive Breast Center, including Dr. David Ghaphery and Dr. John Wolen.