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New Breast Cancer Prevention Options

Is Genetic Testing Right for You?

Petersburg, VA– Since 1985, the U.S. has dedicated the month of October to a national focus on the screening, prevention and survivors of breast cancer. The increased focus on education, screening and lifestyle changes has been a critical tool in driving down both the number of deaths and new diagnoses of breast cancer.

Genetic testing has quickly become a more mainstream practice, both for human interest about our ancestry, and for the purpose of understanding how that ancestry might increase our risk for certain diseases. Recent medical news has focused on the BRCA genes and their role in increased cancer risks, and now there are affordable, at-home testing options for those with specific risk factors.

The two BRCA genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – normally help protect women from cancer. However, some women experience a mutation of these genes that can actually lead to cancer. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women with a BRCA gene mutation are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer, when compared with women without the gene mutations.

So, should all women be tested for the BRCA gene mutation? The experts say, absolutely not.

“It’s important to keep in mind that gene mutations are only a small part of the breast cancer story,” said Sasa-Grae Espino, MD, fellowship-trained Breast Surgeon. “It’s true that having an immediate family member with breast cancer can double your risk of being diagnosed. But it’s also true that more than 80% of women who get breast cancer have NO family history of the disease. There are many other factors, some inside and some outside of your control.”

Both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the medical community agree there are certain risk factors that indicate a woman should seek genetic counseling, and BRCA testing if recommended after counseling:

  • A family history of someone having a positive BRCA mutation
  • Ovarian, tubal or peritoneal cancer at any age in a family member
  • Breast cancer in a family member before the age of 50
  • Triple-negative breast cancer before the age of 60
  • Male breast cancer in any family member
  • People of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Two or more family members with breast cancer, on either side of the family

Beyond BRCA genes, there are more than 30 gene mutations associated with various types of hereditary cancer. Tremendous information can be gained through genetic testing, but it’s important to work with your physician and/or a genetic counselor to ensure you pursue the right options for you.

“Genetic testing is exciting, but in no way does it reduce the need for vigilance on the more prevalent risk factors for cancer,” said Dr. Espino. “A healthy, whole food diet, regular exercise, regular mammograms and a no-smoking policy, are still by far the most critical tools for reducing the risk of all forms of cancer. Genetic testing is another tool for early intervention and managing increased risk, and should be used judiciously.”

If you meet the criteria set by the USPSTF, talk with your doctor about the best prevention and genetic testing for you. To find a primary care physician, visit

About SRMC:

Southside Regional Medical Center (SRMC) is a 300-bed, acute-care facility located at 200 Medical Park Boulevard in Petersburg, VA. SRMC serves nearly 200,000 residents and boasts a medical staff of more than 380 physicians representing over 40 specialties. SRMC treats more than 60,000 patients annually in its Emergency Department and is a Level III Trauma Center. The medical center provides inpatient care for approximately 12,000 patients per year. SRMC is owned in part by physicians. For more information about SRMC and the services it provides, please visit

About Sasa-Grae Espino, Breast Surgeon

Fellowship trained in breast surgery, Dr. Sasa-Grae Espino practices at Southside Physicians Network in Petersburg.
Dr. Espino specializes in breast diseases, including the surgical treatment of breast cancer, benign diseases and managing high risk patients (genetic testing and counseling). Surgeries include biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies and
immediate breast reconstruction. She is an active member of the medical staff of Southside Regional Medical Center. For more information, visit or call 804-520-6730.

Advisory Commission on Student Success Scheduled to Meet

In May 2017, the Greensville County School Board established a 35-member advisory commission to engage members of the community in dialog about needed school improvements.

During the three meetings held last spring, members of the Advisory Commission on Student Success were committed to fulfilling the goals of understanding the needs, engaging in meaningful dialog, and making recommendations for improvement in key areas. Four primary recommendations came forth from the Commission’s work last spring.

The Commission recommended that the school division

  • Conduct a comprehensive strategic planning process;
  • Continue work in the areas of safety, security, supervision, and student discipline;
  • Implement systemic literacy instructional services that move student achievement forward; and
  • Strengthen the system for early academic intervention to address needs of students who do not master required grade level skills.

The Commission’s first meeting of the year is scheduled for 5:30 PM on Thursday, November 9th, in the Library/Media Center at Greensville County High School. The purpose of this meeting is to receive progress updates and discuss next steps.

Meetings of the Advisory Commission on Student Success are open for the public to attend.

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