Writer-reporter focusing on health, genetics, cultural politics and entertainment. Send me story ideas!
Cancer kept Angel Moses busy. Before even completing the five-year treatment for breast cancer after she was diagnosed in 2003, the disease recurred in the original breast and a new cancer developed in the other.
The Chicago resident first found she had the disease when she was just 38. Her age and the occurrence of her second cancer were factors that suggested Moses had hereditary breast cancer. She opted for testing and discovered that she did indeed carry a so-called Jewish gene mutation — BRCA2 — which dramatically increased her risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.
When the Forward first wrote about Harvey Singer two years ago, he shared his trials of being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. The Rochester, New York, resident opted for a full mastectomy, only to be diagnosed with prostate cancer 18 months later. Recently, we learned that Singer faced yet another monumental health scare after we spoke with him in 2014.
A coalition of politicians from both sides of the aisle is deeply concerned about new recommendations for breast cancer screening. They, along with patient advocates, say the new guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force will fail to protect populations with a hereditary predisposition, including Ashkenazim, one of the groups at higher risk for the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutations linked to breast, ovarian and other cancers.
Having grown up within the Orthodox Jewish enclave of Midwood in Brooklyn, Rifky Tkatch, a social psychologist, knew that many in her community did not like to talk about cancer.
Yet it wasn’t until she conducted focus group interviews with Orthodox Jewish women in Detroit in 2011 that she uncovered barriers to screening that stunned her. Many participants believed that God was more likely to perform a miracle related to a disease that had not been diagnosed. Once a disease, such as cancer, was detected, they said, the likelihood of a miracle healing was significantly reduced.
A new initiative offering subsidized screening for cancer-causing mutations in Ashkenazi Jews — including those with no family history of cancer — appears to be splitting cancer specialists.
Myriad Genetics may have lost its singular hold on the market for BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing in May 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled against the patenting of genes, but few outside the science and medical communities are aware that Myriad continues to possess a repository of patient data from BRCA testing that it does not share with researchers outside its own lab.
While the interest level in learning about hereditary cancer has increased, there is still a lot of ignorance and confusion about risk factors, which could potentially lead women to undergo unnecessary surgery.
No family history of cancer? Get tested anyway suggests a recently published study, but medical experts are deeply divided.
Testing for BRCA genetic mutations, tied to breast and ovarian cancers in Jewish women, isn’t common, despite proven risks. Marcia Watson-Levy learned the danger firsthand.
Beatles manager Brian Epstein struggled with his sexuality and his Judaism right up until he died of a drug overdose. I discuss his legacy with the author of ‘The Fifth Beatle.’
As I peer down at her cotton-puff head, my sense of guilt sets in. Peeps, my bichon frise associate, has just taken a cocktail of three different medicines meant to keep her ticker ticking. Her eyes water, and her mouth turns downward, quivering slightly. It’s obvious she is not digging this new regimen. At 13, this lady has lived long enough to endure an onslaught of insults to her pot-bellied little being — epilepsy, cataracts, a successful surgery to rid her of cancer and, most recently, congestive heart failure.
Her followers on Twitter know that Sandra Bernhard shares a dizzying number of missives.
“I mix it up, honey, tomorrow night is a vegan potato kale enchilada. That’s how we roll,” said a recent tweet. Another said simply: “7:20 is the new 10:30.” To some, the domesticity might seem surprising. After all, Bernhard is a performer beloved for her withering and sometimes lewd comedic attacks on cultural icons and politicians. Onstage, she can be downright intimidating, eviscerating her subjects in her trademark blasé delivery.
Regulatory hurdles plague a new class of cancer drugs that showed encouraging results. Those obstacles have frustrated carriers of cancer-causing mutations, for whom medicine might prove helpful.
An emerging therapy that attacks cancer cells continues to show promise, most recently in two international studies on women who have breast and ovarian cancer and are carriers of cancer-causing mutations particularly prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews.
Genetics has long been thought to play a relatively minor role when it comes to the development of Parkinson’s disease. So it came as a surprise to the medical community five years ago when Dr. Susan Bressman and her colleagues at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York reported that a single genetic mutation in a gene called LRRK2 accounted for a significant portion of all cases of Parkinson’s disease among Ashkenazi Jews.