The point of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week in Michigan is to make women aware, if they have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in their family, to be sure to make their doctor and health care providers aware of that, so that appropriate screenings can take place.

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Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week is between national awareness months for ovarian cancer in September and breast cancer in October, HBOC Week highlights the connection between hereditary forms of ovarian and breast cancer.

In a release, the state's top doctor, Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS, says, “If you have a personal or family history of cancer, we urge you to tell your health care provider about this history. Talking with a trained professional, such as a board-certified genetic counselor, is especially important if you or your family member was diagnosed with breast cancer at or before age 50, diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age, or have had more than one type of primary cancer.”

HBOC is primarily due to changes in the BRCA and other genes. Most of the estimated 25,000 Michigan residents who carry a BRCA mutation are not aware that they are at higher risk of developing hereditary cancer. There are ways to reduce cancer risk and save more lives, and one of the first steps to consider is cancer genetic counseling. Cascade screening, which helps identify at-risk relatives, is an important measure toward preventing cancer in those at-risk family members.

Mollie Smith, founder of BRCAn’t Stop Me, Michigan Cancer Genetics Alliance (MCGA) member, and Miss Wayne County 2016, learned she was positive for the BRCA 2 mutation when she was 19 years old.

"Cascade screening saves lives. I have seen it save lives in my own family,” said Smith. “Because my family was successful at informing each other about the BRCA gene mutation, we have been able to prevent ourselves from developing cancer. My mom had a prophylactic mastectomy which showed precancerous cells forming. If she hadn't had this surgery, she may not be here with us today. Knowledge is power, and it truly does save lives.”

To learn more about HBOC and hereditary cancers, visit: www.michigan.gov/hereditarycancer. A directory of cancer genetic counseling clinics in Michigan can be found at: https://migrc.org/Library/MCGA/MCGADirectory.html.