JScreen might be known for its reproductive carrier screening kits, but it is its recent foray into cancer screening that is making waves medically and saving lives in the Orthodox Jewish world. Genetic counselor Estie Rose has been helping patients find out live-saving information since this test debuted a few months ago. “Everything is done in a very convenient and affordable way… we make the tests easy and affordable and accessible for anyone.”
JScreen’s reproductive carrier screenings that test before pregnancy at-home have been a hit in the Jewish world. Their tests for Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis and more have helped thousands of families. Rose travels to different Jewish communities to educate them on the value of genetic testing. Now, she is educating them on the cancers that typically affect those in the Jewish world. “The BRCA gene mutation is one that is of particular interest in the Ashkenazi Jewish community.” While JScreen stayed away from the world of cancer, the predominance of people asking if they had it available caused JScreen to take action. “The new program offers a cancer gen test, which tests people for 63 different cancer screening genes.” It works in the same convenient way as their reproductive carrier screenings kits and many people order both at the same time.
Preventative health has become a big thing in the Jewish community lately. “The rabbis are very supportive of it. They would rather people prevent things from happening, rather than deal with it afterward.” Rose says that in the past, people only with a known family history of actual cancer were the ones that were tested in the past. But now, things are different and people like to have direct to consumer testing. “People like to have information about themselves. Whether it’s ancestry information, health information, recreational genetic information…such as whether you find cilantro to be distasteful [is more common]…they are not as scared anymore.” She cautions that a cancer screening test must be done with a genetic counselor who can interpret the results for you. Their hybrid though the mail model still gives people access to genetic counselors in the process. “We see that people want it and we’re here to provide this service for the community.”
Within the 63 genes, JScreen covers 40 cancer types. “Anybody who wants this information and understands the emotional burden of what the result might be should go for it.” JScreen chose these genes to concentrate on because they are actionable. “They can catch them at an early and treatable phase.” The counselors tell patients all of their options based on their genetic test result so informed decisions can be made. Some of the recommendations range from early mammograms to increased prostate cancer screening or colonoscopies and more intensive preventative measures. While people can develop cancer without a genetic predisposition (spontaneous and environmental concerns can also cause cancer), these genetic markers show what cancer probability that could be related to these genes. “This is not a get out of jail free card. It is possible for someone to still get cancer and not because of their gene.”
One in ten Ashkenazi Jews test positive for the APC gene, which increases risk for colon cancer by double the population (to an 8% risk). Those people need to be on top of their colonoscopies and perhaps do them more often than others. But most people in the Jewish community are supportive of this. Rose says, “They have to be ready… No one should get the test who doesn’t want the test.” While this might be a lot of information for people who are in shidduchim or are dating, many more segments of religious Jewish society have every reason to utilize this test and “use the information to help themselves, save themselves and their family members.”
To find out more, visit: http://www.jscreen.org
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Discount: $50 off any JScreen test