Empowered, The Cancer Advocacy Society of Malaysia, launched its first-ever Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Campaign at Paradigm Mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, recently.
Bearing the theme of Check Your Genes, Fight Cancer, this community outreach programme aimed to raise awareness about HBOC and recognise Malaysians who have been affected by hereditary breast, ovarian and related cancers, including women and men with BRCA mutations and individuals with a family history of cancer.
Hereditary cancers account for 5%-10% of all cancers and are due to mutated cancer susceptibility genes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.
HBOC is a well-known inherited genetic condition and can be passed down from each generation to the next in affected families with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
People with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation face a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers by age 70 than women in the general population.
People are more likely to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation if they or their close relatives on either their mother’s or father’s side of the family have had breast cancer before age 40, triple negative breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cancer in both breasts, breast cancer in a male relative, or multiple relatives with breast, pancreatic or prostate cancer.
Through a thorough evaluation of a family cancer history, patients and families at increased risk for a HBOC can be identified, and referred for genetic counselling and testing. Their healthcare specialists can help them make informed decisions about options for cancer risk reduction.
According to Empowered president and consultant medical oncologist Dr Christina Ng Van Tze, “Through awareness and education, Malaysians who carry a positive BRCA or other gene mutation, or have an important family history of cancer, can be more proactive about lowering their cancer risks and can take bold steps towards minimising the impact of hereditary cancer.
“Empowered’s HBOC Campaign 2016 aims to raise awareness about the pertinent facts about HBOC and impact Malaysian lives.”
The campaign imparted a diverse array of creative learning experiences and medical answers to the Malaysian public.
Paradigm Mall shoppers were greeted by celebrity ambassador appearances as they journeyed between numerous learning booths that were decked with family games and prizes.
The HBOC campaign face and hair specialists, as well as the event mascots, brought much holiday cheer to the eager participants.
Empowered’s team of genetic counsellors, doctors and medical students personalised the educational experiences for members of the public who were eager to embrace bold steps towards a healthier future.
Dr Ng said: “Empowered celebrates local and international efforts to ensure a better future for the next generation with continued work to improve medical options, accelerate research and make new therapies available to patients facing hereditary breast, ovarian and related cancers.”
She added, “Empowered is deeply grateful to local donors who have generously contributed to the HBOC campaign cause to positively impact Malaysian lives.”
The learning booth messages of Empowered’s HBOC campaign 2016
Booth 1: Introduction to HBOC
This booth provided an introduction to what cells and genes are.
Educators explained how cells become cancerous, the importance of genes and how they contribute to cancer development.
HBOC and the responsible genes, namely BRCA 1 and 2, were also covered in this booth.
Booth 2: Who can be affected with HBOC?
This booth explained who is at high risk of HBOC.
Educators explained that both men and women can inherit faulty BRCA genes.
Red flags for HBOC were also covered in this booth.
Booth 3: How are mutated BRCA genes inherited?
This booth illustrated the mode of inheritance of faulty HBOC genes.
When a parent is carrier of a faulty BRCA gene, each pregnancy will have a random 50% chance of passing on the faulty gene to the child.
Booth 4: At what age might a person with a mutated BRCA gene get cancer?
This booth illustrated the lifetime risk of developing cancer when a person inherits a faulty BRCA gene from his or her parent.
Although a faulty BRCA gene confers an increased risk of developing cancer, it is, nevertheless, not 100%.
Booth 5: Which organs can be affected by cancer in mutated BRCA carriers?
This booth educated people about the related cancers caused by faulty BRCA genes.
Educators illustrated the different organs (affected by faulty BRCA genes) and where these organs are located in the body.
Booth 6: Why is it important to know about our risk of hereditary cancers?
This booth explained the importance of knowing your risk of HBOC.
Educators shared the Angelina Jolie story – how she discovered her high risk of developing HBOC, and what she did to reduce her cancer risk.
Booth 7: What can I do if I have a high risk of HBOC?
This booth covered the screening and preventative measures that are available to individuals who have a high risk of developing HBOC.
Early detection saves lives.
Booth 8: Learning about breast self examination
Doctors took groups of women on enlightening tutorials about breast self examination.
Booth 9: Drawing your family tree
This booth focused on helping people draw their family pedigree.
Genetic specialists addressed one family at a time.
The family pedigree serves as a future reference for hereditary cancer risk assessment for each individual.
Booth 10: Hereditary cancer risk assessment
The genetic counsellors used the family pedigree and additional medical information to determine the individual’s risk of developing HBOC and if genetic testing is recommended for those individuals.
Empowered, The Cancer Advocacy Society of Malaysia, is a non-profit non-governmental tax-exempt organisation. It was founded in 2009 by Dr Christina Ng Van Tze to prevent cancer, save lives and eliminate suffering amongst the poor. For more information about Empowered, log on to www.empowered.org.my or follow at facebook.com/EmpoweredMY.