Wolper Jewish Hospital’s Community Genetics Program has expanded to include the BRCA JeneScreen program.
Since 1995, Wolper’s preconception genetic screening program – the first of its kind in Australia – has been very successful in identifying genetic defects that are more common in people of Jewish descent and can lead to devastating conditions like Tay-Sachs disease.
“Since the program began, not a single child affected by Tay Sachs has been born to parents who underwent screening under the Wolper program,” said Wolper President Richard Glass.
The BRCA JeneScreen program looks for three genetic errors within the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that have been shown to be more common in people of Jewish descent and may predispose people to a higher risk of breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.
“Knowing that they carry a defect in one of these genes gives people the power to make informed decisions about the preventive options available to them and may enable early cancer detection,” said Dr. Lesley Andrews, Senior Clinician at Prince of Wales Hospital and Wolper Board Member.
“For most people, genetic screening provides reassurance, but for others it enables decisions that can transform their lives and those of their children.”
Noa Benav recently took part in JeneScreen after being encouraged to do so by a friend.
“Fortunately, I tested negative. A year after the screening, a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was armed with the comforting knowledge that I didn’t carry the BRCA gene defect,” she said.
“Now I know how common breast cancer is and how important it is to understand which risk category you fit into.”
The Wolper Community Genetics Program’s innovative approach means genetic screening has never been more accessible.
The program’s website allows people to get comprehensive information about genetics and how the programs work. Once the decision has been made to proceed and consent has been obtained, a test kit will be provided in the mail in the form of a cheek or saliva swab. The test is quick and easy and takes place at home, with the sample being mailed back to the laboratory for analysis.
Results are available via email or phone from a genetic counselor who is available free of charge throughout the process to ensure any participant with a positive result is treated appropriately.
“Wolper Jewish Hospital is proud to support this life-changing program,” said Glass, “which we will continue to develop as technology and medical practice allow us.”
Get the AJN newsletter by email and never miss our top stories Sign up for free