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Jewish women should get mammograms at 40, experts say. Here’s why.

When Yaffa Leah Field was in her late 20s, she decided to undergo genetic testing.

Her grandmother had had breast cancer, and Field wanted to know whether she was among the one of every 40 Jewish women of Ashkenazi descent with either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations, which make them extra susceptible to breast cancer.

If she did have one of those mutations, her chances of developing breast cancer by age 70 would be roughly 50% in her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The test came back negative,” said Field, now 43 and the mother of three boys.

Though temporarily relieved, she knew that breast cancer risk is not limited to those with the genetic mutations. Roughly one in eight women will develop the disease in their lifetime, and men, too, can have breast cancer.

Close monitoring, therefore, is essential. For women, that means not only regularly checking their breasts themselves for lumps or abnormalities, but getting mammograms. The question is when to start.

Field, who now works at Sharsheret, the national Jewish nonprofit that offers education, counseling and support to women facing breast and ovarian cancer, got her professional start as a physician’s assistant, so she knew how important it was to “do my screening on time.”

But what exactly “on time” means has been the subject of much debate and disagreement.

The question came to the fore again this spring when a panel of experts serving on the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) revised earlier guidelines and changed the recommended age that women get their first mammograms to 40, from 50, and suggested that they continue to have mammograms done once every two years. It’s not the first time the recommendation has changed.

“In 2016 the US Task Force changed the guidelines from 40 to 50,” said Dr. Caryn Gamss, a radiologist at Murray Hill Radiology in Manhattan.

Gamss is also a member of Sharsheret’s Medical Advisory Board. In her practice, Gamss adheres to guidelines from the American College of Radiology that recommend starting yearly screenings at age 40 provided a person has no risk factors.

“Fifty is too late,” Gamss says.

Even waiting until age 40 can be risky, as recent studies have shown high breast cancer mortality rates for women in that age group, she noted.

“People need to think about it younger instead of waiting and then finding out ‘My mother had cancer, my grandmother…’ — and they show up at 40 and have cancer, too,” Gamss said.

Her recommendation is that all women undergo a breast cancer risk assessment by age 25. That entails answering a panel of questions that covers one’s family and medical history. Among other things, the assessment inquires whether a person had “a biopsy and a high risk lesion; breast density, if someone has lymphoma and was treated under the age of 25; if someone got upper abdominal radiation before age 25.”

The responses to these questions help doctors determine when and how individual patients should be screened — including whether to do MRIs and ultrasounds to supplement mammograms, for example. At-risk women should start their 30s armed with information and a plan.

Short of that, there is what Peggy Cottrell, Sharsheret’s genetics program manager, calls a general rule of thumb: “If breast cancer has been diagnosed at a particular age, you want to start screening 10 years before that. So if someone’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 45, that person is going to start screening at 35.”

Avoiding smoking and alcohol, exercising, and a good diet are important to maintaining good health, Cottrell notes, but perhaps the biggest factor is chance. In fact, hereditary cancers like those caused by BRCA mutations account for only 15% of all breast cancers; most occur for reasons unknown. That makes screening all the more essential.

“For many women, knowing there is something they can do that can reduce their risk motivates them,” she said.

Many women delay getting mammograms out of fear of the results, nervousness about the process or just general anxiety. This is another area where Sharsheret provides women with help and guidance – even in the waiting room.

In order for doctors to interpret mammograms properly, they require two specific views of each breast. Sometimes, technicians need to take more than four photos to ensure they get those views; it doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

Women with no risk factors should get their first mammogram at age 40, experts now say, and to determine their level of risk, all women should undergo a breast cancer risk assessment by age 25. (Carol Yepes/Getty Images)

Even if you’re asked to come for a follow-up mammogram – what’s known as a diagnostic mammogram – it just means that more imaging is required, not that there’s necessarily a problem. Sometimes doctors observe a change in appearance from the prior year or a fold in the skin; other times the original image failed to capture the necessary view. Likewise, for some younger women and those with dense breasts, a mammogram may not suffice; doctors may require an ultrasound or MRI to examine the breast adequately.

Adina Fleischmann, a social worker who serves as Sharsheret’s chief services officer, recommends that each individual discuss their own circumstances with their healthcare provider. Sharsheret tries to promote awareness of the importance of getting breast cancer risk assessments, and to provide guidance to women about what to ask.

“We want to make sure that each woman who reaches out is able to ask the right questions: How often should I be screened? What’s the most appropriate screening method for me? Questions about what breast density means and how it can impact them,” Fleischmann said. “Those are the tools we want to give to our women.”

Women seeking guidance are encouraged to call Sharsheret toll-free at 866 474-2774 to connect with therapists and genetic counselors.

Sharsheret also offers peer-to-peer support, programs to guide cancer patients on how to talk about their illness with their children, and support to people who have a family member with breast cancer, including financial assistance for non-medical services critical to women’s quality of life and body image, such as acquiring wigs. Sharsheret also hosts live events such as barbecues, online yoga classes, family fun runs and other programs to empower women with cancer and foster a sense of community.

The education and awareness programming Sharsheret runs start as early as high school and college campuses, such as an annual Pink Day that includes grassroots fundraising events at hundreds of campuses worldwide.

“Sharsheret is here to arm you with education and to let you know that you’re not alone,” Fleischmann said. “Cancer screening, and the knowledge that comes along with it, can be empowering. By speaking with your healthcare provider about the screening guidelines that are most appropriate for you, you are taking a step toward your best health.”

As for Field, she went for her first baseline mammogram at age 40 — in the spring of 2020, just as Covid hit and the world masked up and locked down. The doctors identified something suspicious.

“It started a roller coaster of diagnostic testing. I wound up with eight biopsies, and in the end I had a bilateral mastectomy,” Field said after cancer was identified. “I feel thankful it was found very early.”

Her advice: Know your body and your family history.

“Breast cancer doesn’t just affect women 40 and older,” Field said. “Know your potential risks. Empower yourself to know what you need to be aware of. It shouldn’t be a shock. Be appropriately proactive.”

“And most importantly, when you reach the age when it’s recommended, get screened,” Field said. “It may be uncomfortable for a few minutes, but it’ll give you peace of mind.”


The post Jewish women should get mammograms at 40, experts say. Here’s why. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns

Stadion Widzewa is a multi-use stadium in Łódź, Poland. It is currently used mostly for football matches and serves as the home stadium of Widzew Łódź. Photo: maps.pomocnik.com.

Two Israeli soccer teams — Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva — that were set to play their European Championship matches in the Polish city of Łódź have been banned by the hosting country, after widespread outrage from Poles.

The Union of European Football Associations previously announced that Israel will not be allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the ongoing war against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

As a result, the Israeli clubs announced on Sunday that their new “home stadiums” would be the Władysław Król Municipal Stadium and the Stadion Widzewa in Łódź. Soon afterward, two Polish clubs that play at the stadiums released statements distancing themselves from the decision, with many fans expressing antisemitic outrage on social media against Israel and support for the Palestinians.

The Polish city’s Cultural and Sport authority then released a statement saying that no Israeli teams would play at any facilities in Łódz because “the safety of Łódź residents and visitors is the highest priority for the city.”

Yacov Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, slammed the decision and lodged a complaint with the Polish city.

“One should not give in to such threats. Lodz needs to remain a place of tolerance, not fear,” Livne said in a statement on X/Twitter.

Maccabi Haifa took second place in the Israeli top league, giving it the opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds for the European Conference League, while Hapoen Beer Sheva came third in the Israeli premier league.

One of the Polish clubs based in Łódz has a history of antisemitism.

In 2016, a group of ŁKS Łódz hooligans set fire to “Jewish” effigies and paraded a banner calling for the burning of Jews. Years earlier in 2013, fans of the same team invited visitors to an indoor tournament to play a game in which they could throw objects at “Jews,” models dressed in uniforms of the club’s rival, Widzew Łódź. A sign next to the game informed players that for a meager price they would be given “three throws at the Jews.”

Antisemitism is increasingly creeping into Polish politics as well.

Last week a virulently antisemitic member of the Polish parliament who extinguished the candles of a lit Hanukkah menorah with a fire extinguisher won a seat in the European Parliament elections, riding a wave of far-right success across the continent.

The post Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’

Quentin Tarantino being harassed by anti-Israel media personality “Crackhead Barney.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

A notorious anti-Israel social media personality accosted filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at a New York City restaurant and called him a “Zionist piece of s–t.”

A woman known online as “Crackhead Barney” shared a video on Saturday of her confrontation with the “Django Unchained” director, 61, as he was eating alone inside a restaurant on St. Marks Place. She approached his table and shouted, “Quentin Tarantino, say ‘Free Palestine!’ Why are you a Zionist piece of s__t?!” Tarantino remained silent as Barney repeated herself and then asked him, “Going to Israel?” as workers from the establishment tried to make her leave the restaurant.

When Tarantino left the eatery, a rowdy crowd awaited him outside including Barney, who confronted him again. She repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” and asked the director to “say ni–er” multiple times while also exposing herself to the “Pulp Fiction” director. The crowd of people outside the restaurant also chanted “Toes! Toes!” which is seemingly a nod to the director’s fixation with showcasing feet in his movies.

Tarantino is married to Israeli singer Daniella Pick, who is the daughter of legendary Israeli pop musician Svika Pick. The couple live in Tel Aviv with their two children and Tarantino spoke in 2021 about learning Hebrew. In 2022, he received an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, Tarantino visited an army base in southern Israel and met with Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops.

Earlier this year, Barney harassed actor Alec Baldwin inside a coffee shop in New York City and recorded their confrontation on her cellphone. She told the actor, “Free Palestine … F–k Israel, F–k Zionism.” She repeatedly asked Baldwin to also say “Free Palestine” and when she would not back down, Baldwin eventually knocked Barney’s phone from her hands.

The post Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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