Wolper Jewish Hospital’s Community Genetics Program has expanded to also now include the BRCA JeneScreen program.
Since 1995, Wolper’s preconception genetic screening program – the first of its kind in Australia – has been highly successful in identifying gene faults that are more common in people with Jewish ancestry that can lead to devastating conditions such as Tay Sachs disease.
“Since the program’s inception, not one Tay Sachs-affected child has been born to parents that have undergone screening through the Wolper program,” Wolper president Richard Glass said.
The BRCA JeneScreen program screens for three gene faults within the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which have been shown to be more common in people of Jewish ancestry, that can predispose people to higher risks of breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.
“The knowledge that they carry a fault in one of these genes gives people the opportunity to make informed decisions about the preventative options available to them and can 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 choices that can change their life and that of their children.”
Noa Benav recently participated in JeneScreen after being encouraged to do so by a friend.
“Happily I tested negative. A year after the screening, a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was equipped with the reassuring knowledge that I did not carry the BRCA gene fault,” she said.
“I know today how common breast cancer is, and how important it is to understand what risk category you fit into.”
The innovative approach adopted by the Wolper Community Genetics Program means that genetic screening has never been more accessible.
People can receive comprehensive information about genetics and how the programs work via the program website. Once the decision is made to go ahead and consent is given, a testing kit is provided through the mail in the form of a cheek or saliva swab. Testing is quick and easy, and takes place at home, with the sample returned to the laboratory for analysis through the post.
Results are available via email or a phone call from a genetic counsellor, who is available at no cost throughout the process, to ensure any participant with a positive result receives appropriate care.
“Wolper Jewish Hospital is proud to support this life-changing program”, said Glass, “which we will continue to evolve as technology and medical practice enables us to.”