Take the Test: Doctors urge some South Floridians to test for genetic mutation that carries higher risk of cancer

(WSVN) - A dangerous genetic mutation causing an alarmingly high rate of breast and ovarian cancers, and doctors say one South Florida population has a higher risk, but there is a way to detect it. 7’s Kevin Ozebek tell us that’s why both women and men are being urged to take the test.

To learn more about her Jewish heritage, Dana Marin took a popular DNA test.

Dana Marin, has BRCA mutation: “I took a 23andMe test for fun.”

But what she got back shocked her.

Dana Marin: “The screen popped up, and it said I actually had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer in my lifetime.”

The medical portion of the test found Dana had a genetic mutation called BRCA, which is common in Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe.

In the U.S., that’s almost 90% of the Jewish population.

Dr. Liz Etkin-Kramer: “It affects both men and women, but the cancer risks are greater in women.”

Dr. Liz Etkin-Kramer is an OBGYN and founder of Yodeah, an organization that promotes BRCA testing and education.

Dr. Liz Etkin-Kramer, promotes BRCA testing: “When a woman carries a BRCA mutation, their lifetime risk of breast cancer can be north of 80%. It’s a huge number.”

One in 40 Ashkenazi Jews have the BRCA mutation. Up until recently, genetic testing was not recommended unless there was a family history of cancer, but now, new guidelines recommend testing for all Ashkenazi Jews.

Dr. Liz Etkin-Kramer: “If you go by the old guidelines, you’d miss well over 50% of BRCA mutations.”

It’s a simple saliva test that costs $199, and that includes lab fees. Insurance does not cover it.

Dr. Liz Etkin-Kramer: “So it takes just a few minutes. The results come back in about three weeks.”

Dr. Robin Straus: “This is something, something preventative.”

Dr. Robin Straus is a pediatrician. Her sister, Susie, developed ovarian cancer, which was a shocking and devastating diagnosis for her family.

Dr. Robin Straus, has BRCA mutation: “Nobody had breast, ovarian, pancreatic, any of the things that are associated with the BRCA gene, and so the first one who was diagnosed was my sister in 2010.”

Susie passed away in 2013.

When Robin found out she also had the BRCA mutation, she made the decision to surgically remove her healthy, but at-risk, organs.

Dr. Robin Straus: “I was certainly no longer of child-bearing age, so the obvious one was to have the hysterectomy and the bilateral ovariectomy, which is my uterus and my ovaries and tubes taken out.”

Later, she had a double mastectomy.

Dana, a wife and mother of two, also chose surgery.

Dana Marin: “The most I could do was to remove these organs and body parts that could kill me, and so I did that, and I haven’t regretted my decision for one minute.”

Now, both Dana and Robin are members of Yodeah, telling their stories and working with Dr, Etkin-Kramer to get the word out.

Dr. Robin Straus: “The mission of Yodeah is to try to encourage certainly Ashkenazi Jews to get tested because of this high incidence, and it is life saving.”

In Hebrew, the word yodeah means “to know,” and with BRCA, that knowledge can make all the difference between life and death.

If you would like to learn more about the BRCA mutation and how you can get tested, click here.

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