Many Jewish women attending their synagogue’s high holiday services this month may have seen posters plastered on bulletin boards or near the entrance doors warning them that they may be at increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
“Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA gene mutation,” reads the poster. “This is at least a ten times greater probability than that of the general population.” The advice: Talk to experts at Basser Research Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center to understand your risk. The implied message: You may have a BRCA mutation and could be a good candidate for genetic testing.
Temple Beth Am in Framingham and Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline have these posters up on their walls, as do 1,500 other synagogues across the country.
Dr. Susan Domchek, an oncologist, genetic researcher, and executive director of the Basser Research Center told me that the mission of the poster campaign is to simply increase awareness and get women to seek more information on whether they would qualify for genetic testing.
The trouble: The campaign leads Jewish women to believe they likely need BRCA testing. Most don’t, and insurance tends to cover the $500 screening cost only if at least one first-degree relative is diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer.