As part of its continued effort to promote awareness and educate the community about breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Awareness committee of St. Luke's Miners Hospital held its annual tea at Macaluso's at the Lantern Inn in Nesquehoning on Sunday.

About 50 women attended the tea as well as a presentation given by Andrea J. Smith, MS, CGC.

Smith, a certified genetic counselor with St. Luke's Family Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, spoke to the attendees on the topic of "Genetics and Breast Cancer: How Does Family Affect Risk?"

Smith discussed the three risk groups that women generally fall into and outlined the precautions that women should be taking such as mammography screenings, annual physician visits, monthly self-examinations and breast MRIs.

The main focus of the presentation was on the possible genetic risks that can be involved when one or more family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer and how genetic testing can be useful in the identification of the BRCA gene for any changes.

"If these women carry these BRCA genes, their risk for developing breast cancer is as high as 85 percent in their lifetime compared to the average risk which is 12 percent," said Smith.

Smith also said that men can carry the BRCA gene mutation which can pose an increased risk for male breast and prostate cancer.

"If it's a family where there is a very high likelihood of carrying one of these hereditary gene mutations, then there is certainly reason for men to get screening in order to understand their risks as well," said Smith.

Smith identified additional precautionary measures that can be taken for people who fall into the high risk group such as having mammograms and breast MRIs at an earlier age, medications that can lower the risk as well as preventative surgery to remove healthy tissue before it becomes cancerous.

To aid in earlier detection of breast and ovarian cancer, Smith helped develop the Personalized Breast & Ovarian Health Program utilized at St. Luke's which helps to detect specific risk factors for an individual as well as any possible familial risks and to provide an assessment for patients and/or their doctors free of charge.

This was the 13th year that the committee held the Breast Cancer Awareness tea and they thanked the donors that have made the event possible year after year.

The committee consists of Anita Hiles and Barbara Porambo, mammographers at St. Luke's, Sharon Oravec, nurse manger for outpatient oncology and Andrea Visnosky, director of Marketing & Publications.

The ultimate goal of the annual tea is to provide women with relevant cancer information with the hope that they will pass it on to friends and family members.

It was noted that Thanksgiving is the National Family History Day in which families are urged to discuss health problems that run in the family, such as cancer.