To mark World Cancer Day, which took place on Sunday, February 4, BRCA Journey organised a cross-communal World Cancer Day Shabbat (Sabbath) service.
BRCA Journey is an organisation formed by a group of people in Leeds who have personal experience or professional interest in hereditary cancer risk, particularly in the Jewish community. They aim to help raise awareness of BRCA gene mutations and support those who may be affected.
Approximately 1 in 800 people have a fault in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, and these faults can significantly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. But the genetic faults are much more common in people who have Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, with 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews believed to have BRCA mutations.
People with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer can be tested for the faults, and if found to have one of the two mutations they can be closely monitored for signs of cancer or opt for surgery to remove their breasts or ovaries as a preventative measure.
Around 180 people gathered together at the BRCA Journey event on Saturday, February 10, to remember loved ones, celebrate survivors and raise awareness.
Senior Minister, Alby Chait, said: “World Cancer Day Shabbat is the most wonderful, spiritually uplifting and inspiring idea and the BRCA Journey team should be commended for this initiative. A communal project that reaches out to all those sadly affected by all types of cancers and genetic disorders. Support, understanding and awareness is, for me, the greatest key, whilst also paying respect and memory to all those who sadly have passed away.”
After the service, Rochelle Gold, co-founder of BRCA Journey, talked about her experience of having the genetic mutation and the preventative surgery she has undergone, then Judith Edhouse, a principle genetic counsellor and co-founder of BRCA Journey, gave a simple explanation of BRCA and its relevance to the Jewish population.
Next John Nathan, retired GP and prostate cancer awareness-raiser and volunteer with Leeds Cancer Awareness, talked about how men can also have the BRCA gene and what this means for them, as well as cancer survival and how we can prevent the BRCA mutation in future generations.
Finally, Minister Alby Chait read a prayer for those who are sick and also a prayer to remember loved ones who have passed.
The event was described as inspirational by those that attended and has raised awareness of the genetic mutation among the community.