October 9, 2006
Contact: Kaylyn Dines
Woman Sought Genetic Testing at UMDNJ to Help Avoid Cancer
- In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one woman shares her story -
NEWARK — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and during this time women will be encouraged to have annual mammograms and conduct monthly self-breast examinations. But a physician at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey believes some women should also consider genetic counseling and genetic testing as a preventive measure.
“Advances in cancer genetics have raised the possibility of DNA testing for the identification of at-risk families and individuals,” said Dr. Marvin N. Schwalb, a professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and director of the school’s Center for Human and Molecular Genetics. “For individuals for whom DNA testing is not available, cancer risk assessment may be provided through evaluation of family history, health history and environmental exposures.”
The Center offers a variety of services including The Familial Cancer Program, which helps locate the breast cancer gene mutations that are most commonly identified in the Ashkenazi Jewish population.
This month, one woman who sought genetic counseling and testing is willing to tell her story as a way to help other women. Susan Glick is an Ashkenazi Jew who suspected she might have a genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer, which prompted her to seek genetic counseling at UMDNJ’s Center for Human and Molecular Genetics. The outcomes of genetic testing, which confirmed her suspicions, presented her with a dilemma. The 45-year-old woman could either have surgery or wait on fate.
The wife and mother of a 6-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, has several family members who have been diagnosed with cancer: her mother died of ovarian cancer at age 52, her 49-year-old sister was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, her maternal grandmother, great aunt, cousin and second cousin were all diagnosed with breast cancer. In addition, her uncle died of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and her father died of lung cancer.
“I wanted to make an informed decision,” said Glick. “In my research, I learned three percent of women who have this prophylactic surgery are found to harbor some cancerous cells, usually at or before stage one.
“I realize the decision to have surgery is not for everyone,” she said. “My personal philosophies and life decisions have been predicated, with the assumption of a shortened life like my parents, I have not lived any other way. Now that I have had surgery, I believe I am doing all I can to stay around a little longer, for me, my family, and mostly my children.”
The UMDNJ-University Hospital will host a free Mammography Screening Day on Monday, October 30, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the hospital’s New Ambulatory Care Center, 140 Bergen Street (UMDCare, F-Level), in Newark.
The screenings, which are sponsored by the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School SAVE (Screening Access of Value to Essex) Women Project, The University Hospital and UMDCare, are free for women age 40 and older or, women age 35 and over with a strong family history of breast cancer. In addition to the mammography, a clinical breast exam, colorectal exam and pap smear (if needed) will be provided. Registration is required and can be made by calling (973) 972-7007.
Members of the media who would like to arrange an interview with Susan Glick or Dr. Schwalb should call Kaylyn Dines at (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.