By Suzanne C. O’Neill

The Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund (TDJBCF) New Year’s Virtual Breast Cancer Support Group Celebration occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. This event was a partnership between TDJBCF and the Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Comprehensive Center (GLCCC). Emceed by Ms. Jacqueline Beale, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) Maryland State Lead Ambassador and TDJBCF Evelyn B. Curtis Spirit Award Recipient, this first event for 2021 was dedicated to the topic of the genetics of breast cancer, including genetic counseling and testing.

The event included opening remarks from Ms. Melanie Nix, Chair of the GLCCC Community Advisory Council & TDJBCF Board Member, who shared her personal experiences. This was followed by a presentation from Ms. Kavitha Kolla, MS, MPH, CGC, a certified genetic counselor at GLCCC. She shared information about when it would be suggested to meet with a genetic counselor to talk about breast cancer risk. The appropriate times for individuals to do thee types of meetings would include having a family member diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, as well as either ovarian, pancreatic or male breast cancer, aggressive or advanced prostate cancer, or multiple relatives on the same side of the family diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Lucile Adams-Campbell, Professor of Oncology, Associate Director for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, and Senior Associate Dean for Community Outreach and Engagement at GLCCC, provided closing remarks. She shared her family’s experience with genetic testing for cancer and her thoughts on the importance of knowing one’s family history of cancer. Scientists from the National Institutes of Health and GLCCC are working together on the FAMILIES Share study. The purpose of this study is to develop a workbook that will help Black residents collect family history data on a number of diseases, including breast cancer, while providing important information on preventing these diseases.

This effort to educate the community about genetic counseling and testing is part of a larger effort to improve breast cancer outcomes for Black women in the District of Columbia (DC) metropolitan area, in partnership with the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association (AWCAA) and the American Cancer Society. This includes encouraging women who have had mammograms in the past to continue to have regular mammograms and on identifying women who would be eligible for genetic counseling and testing and making sure that eligible women receive this important care.

You may be eligible for this study if you are a Black woman in the Washington DC area; are between 40-70 years old; and had a mammogram in the past, but have not had a mammogram in the past 12-24 months. If you are interested in learning more about the study, please contact TDJBCF at (202) 251-1639 or CBCC at (202) 784-2700.

TDJBCF Founder Thelma D. Jones is a member of the GLCCC Community Advisory Council. The next TDJBCF support group meeting is on Wednesday, February 17, at 6 pm via Zoom and Facebook live and will be devoted to the topic of male breast cancer and men’s health, including mental health. The meeting is being sponsored by The Southwest Business Improvement District. For questions about the meeting or the TDJBCF, please email thelma@tdjbreastcancerfund.org, call (202) 251-1639 or visit www.tdjbreastcancerfund.org. The goal is to have a diverse group of at least 75 men at the virtual meeting.

Suzanne C. O’Neill, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University Medical Center and the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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