During Breast Cancer Awareness month, one group in Palm Beach Gardens is working hard to warn families about a rare, mutated gene impacting women in the Jewish community.
The mutated BRCA gene is found in one out of 400 women in the United States, making them more prone to breast and ovarian cancer.
However, in Jewish women, the mutated gene is found in 10 times the rate of the general population.
It's an experience that local teacher Lisa Winer usually doesn’t speak openly about.
"But I think now is the time," she told WPTV in an interview on Tuesday.
The BRCA1 gene runs in her Jewish lineage, making her more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer. She first encountered the idea of getting tested for it more than 15 years ago.
“A lot of members of my family passed away when I was very young," she said. "We didn't know anything about the BRCA 1 gene at that time."
Over the years, she was too afraid to get tested.
“My doctor said to me, 'Lisa, every single time that you come here, you’re wondering if i’m going to tell you if you’re going to live or die," she said.
That’s why local group — Gardens Jewish Experience — is working to help other women like Winer.
“In the Jewish Ashenazi community, it affects one in 40 women," said Bruchy Cheplowitz, co-director of the Gardens Jewish Experience.
This month, Cheplowitz's group has been hosting events and partnering with local doctors to provide BRCA screenings and information for women.
“And with this knowledge.. they can do something about it," she said.
Fifteen years ago, Winer decided to have the preventative surgery to protect herself.
“It’s a 50/50 chance if it gets passed down to you," she said. "I was told I had an 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer."
The group is hoping more women will reach out to them to connect with the right resources to get tested for the BRCA mutate gene.
“We want to get the word out, want to get the information out," said Cheplowitz.
“I could have just been scared and waited for that diagnosis … or I could’ve taken control of my own life," said Winer.
There is a support group for Jewish women called Sharsheret, which provides free resources, education, and support for women in need.
If you need assistance, contact the Gardens Jewish Experience by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting www.gardensje.com.