Archive For "June, 2013"

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Cancer Demystified: It’s All In The Genes

So many questions this week have been asked regarding Angelina Jolie. Why would someone who does not have cancer have both breasts removed? Do all breast cancer patients need to have genetic testing? Is the BRCA test foolproof?

The BRCA test, which is a simple blood test, looks at two genes for mutations. Women who possess a mutation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are at an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

The mutations are extremely rare: 24 people in 10,000 will be carriers of the mutation. In the population of breast cancer patients, 5 percent of the cases are in women with the mutation; while the population of ovarian cancer patients is 10 percent to 15 percent.

Who needs tested for these mutations?

Women who were diagnosed at a young age with breast cancer, women who have bilateral breast cancer and women who have had both breast and ovarian cancer should be tested. Other factors that suggest testing be performed are women with close family history of breast and ovarian cancer, those with relatives diagnosed at an early age and women of Ashkenazi Jewish decent.

Studies have shown that Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews are 10 times more likely to have mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes than the general population.

If testing results are positive, what should be the next step?

Several options, which include increased screening for breast cancer with mammograms and MRI scans of the breasts every year, may be considered. Also suggested is a clinical exam every six months by a physician, along with monthly self-exams.

Preventive medications (chemoprevention), which can reduce breast cancer risk for women at high risk of developing the disease, is another option, as is the use of oral contraceptives, which have been known to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer for the last 30 years.

A final option is preventive surgery, including bilateral mastectomies and surgical removal of the ovaries, likely reducing the cancer risk by 90 percent. Unfortunately, surgery does not completely remove the risk of developing cancer.

Therefore, not everyone should be tested for the BRCA mutation. But, if testing shows a positive diagnosis, options for action are available.

This decision is a personal decision to be made by the individual affected, not just because Brad Pitt’s significant other did it.

Posted In: Cancer Demystified by Dr. Kris Gast
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Relay For Life 2013

Team FSRO aka the Fighting Scots for a Cure took this year’s relay by storm! Using the theme Scotland, team members were clothed in traditional Scottish kilts, capes, and dresses. The Fort Smith Fire Department Bagpipe Corp joined Team FSRO for their team lap, playing traditional Scottish music. Team FSRO won Best Campsite Award and Best Team Flag/Lap Award. Kim Vann, medical dosmetrist, was the Event Chair for the Relay and Dr. Kris Gast spoke during the Fight Back Ceremony. Many  former FSRO patients joined the employees this year to help in the fight against cancer!

Posted In: Relay for Life
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Dr. Kris Gast ~ Ask the Pros

Q: Why did Angelina Jolie remove both breasts when she didn’t even have cancer? What is BRCA?

A: BRCA is a mutation that increases a person’s chance of breast and ovarian cancer.  The mutation is present in only 0.24% of the population and accounts for fewer than 10% of all breast cancer cases.  Not everyone should be tested for this gene since it is present in only 24 out of 10,000 people.  Women who do possess the gene are at 5 times the normal risk of breast cancer and 10-30 times the normal risk of ovarian cancer.

Testing positive for this gene, as in the case of Angelina Jolie, results in what is often a very emotional and personal decision regarding options. These options can include a double mastectomy and removal of ovaries or follow-up mammograms and MRI scans for the earliest detection.

Posted In: Ask the Pros
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