Having Jewish ancestry may put you at a greater risk of developing certain cancers due to increased risk of having certain gene changes, such as those which occur on BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes.

To help increase understanding and knowledge about ovarian cancer risk in the Jewish population, we invited Lisa Steele, CEO of Chai Cancer Care, to host the webinar “Understanding BRCA in the Jewish community”.

In the webinar, Lisa Steele explained what to be aware of regarding BRCA genes, including the new Jewish NHS England testing programme - where those aged 18 or over who have at least one Jewish grandparent will be eligible for genetic screening to see whether they carry a changed BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

The webinar began with Lisa explaining the origins of Chai Cancer Centre, an organisation that is dedicated to establishing culturally sensitive and dedicated support for any member of the Jewish community affected by cancer and their family and friends. Chai Cancer Centre supports over 4000 people from ages 3-98 years old. The word “chai” is the Hebrew word for life, which is an affirmation that life needs to be lived with as much spirit, comfort, dignity, and meaning as possible.

Lisa then explained what genes are, what BRCA gene changes are, and how common they are. She highlighted that 1 in 40 of the Ashkenazi Jewish population have the BRCA gene change, in comparison to 1 in 250 of the general UK population.

Lisa ended her presentation by talking about how people might think about managing their risk of ovarian cancer if their test comes back positive, as well as relevant support services and resource links.

At the end of the webinar, attendees had the opportunity to ask Lisa any questions:

·       Will the NHS England Jewish BRCA testing programme be expanded and be available for those outside England?

Lisa remarked that this programme would hopefully be expanded to the rest of the UK soon.

·       For those who are digitally isolated is there an alternative way to access the programme apart from the online form?

Yes, you can ring the helpline on 020 3437 6001, this line is available Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm.

·       Are their genetic counsellors that work at Chai Cancer Centre?

Yes, these (non-medical) counsellors are trained by The Royal Marsden and Northwick Park hospitals. These sessions are free of charge.

·       How long does it take to get your test results once you’ve submitted your test?

Currently the time is around 16-20 weeks.

To watch the full webinar and presentation please click here.

To learn more about the NHS Jewish BRCA testing programme please visit: https://jewishbrca.org/ or https://www.ovacome.org.uk/blog/new-national-brca-gene-testing-programme