March 22nd Will Be Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Awareness Day in Ohio

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Governor John Kasich has proclaimed March 22, 2014 Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Awareness Day in the State of Ohio. It is the 11th state to officially proclaim that date during the 2014 National Campaign sponsored by cancer survivors, previvors and others involved in advocacy of the hereditary cancers of Lynch syndrome.

For the third year in a row, Governor John Kasich of Ohio has joined Governors of other states in proclaiming March 22, 2014, Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Awareness Day.

Ohio families who have been affected by Lynch syndrome cancers could not be more ecstatic, according to Linda Bruzzone, the President of Lynch Syndrome International, a global patient advocacy organization spearheading the annual national campaign to solicit gubernatorial proclamations in order to promote public awareness.

“Public awareness is paramount,” Bruzzone stated. “In the U.S., alone, geneticists estimate there are over 800,000 persons affected by Lynch syndrome. Tragically, less than 5% of Lynch syndrome affected families are diagnosed. Whole families are being wiped out as a result. It is an incredibly underdiagnosed and neglected syndrome.”

Lynch syndrome is a hereditary condition created by a faulty mismatch repair gene, passed down from generation to generation. This gene, which ordinarily repairs errors in DNA replication, does not function effectively in Lynch syndrome families.

“Simplistically put, errors stack upon errors and tumors form,” Bruzzone explained.

Jill Chang, a mother of two young boys and the Regional Director for Lynch Syndrome International in the Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia region, knows this all too well. She is a two time Lynch syndrome colorectal and endometrial cancer survivor diagnosed at the age of 30. Recently, Chang lost her mother following complications as a result of Lynch syndrome cancer treatments.

Persons with Lynch syndrome face a high lifetime risk toward a predisposition to contracting cancers, including up to: 82% for colorectal cancer, 65% for endometrial cancer, 20% for bladder cancer, 15% for gastric cancer, 13% for ovarian cancer and a higher average risk for contracting cancer of the pancreas, the hepatobiliary tract, the kidney, the small intestine, the prostate, the breast, the skin and the brain.

Chang is a strong advocate of public awareness and is thrilled with the proclamation. “In the case of LS, knowledge is life. With that in mind, it is important to me and my family that we do everything we can to raise awareness about LS to Ohioans. It is exciting to us that Governor Kasich is supporting our efforts by signing the proclamation, and recognizing March 22 as Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Public Awareness Day. His acknowledgement of this day helps support us to empower Ohioans with this knowledge, and saves lives."

Bruzzone urges individuals to learn their family history of cancer and share it with their physician or a genetic counselor. It may identify individuals at risk and qualify them for regular cancer screening, during which time growths and tumors may be detected prior to becoming life threatening.

The proclamation drive in Ohio was the dream of Rachel George Greenwalt, who suffered from a rare appendix cancer of the Lynch syndrome and was revived by her sister, Micki George of Marietta, Ohio. A strong advocate of public awareness, Greenwalt worked with the ACS Relay for Life event, as well as organized grass roots efforts for Lynch syndrome awareness for several years, while fighting cancer.

Months before Rachel passed away on December 10, 2011, she had collected signatures upon a petition she intended to personally present to Governor John Kasich, asking him to proclaim Lynch Syndrome Public Awareness Day in Ohio.

The proclamation project was continued by the James Cancer Center, that year and by Jill Chang the next. This year, her sister, Micki, determined to continue pursuing Rachel’s dream.

"Continuing Rachel's mission to spread the word about Lynch Syndrome will educate families and save lives," Micki stated, expressing gratitude to Governor Kasich.

Thus far, Governors of the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Mississippi, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, Kansas, Illinois, and Delaware have signed proclamations. In three states, California, New York and Tennessee, state legislators have introduced Resolutions celebrating the day. More are expected during the coming days.

“We are grateful to the Governors who are exhibiting strong leadership and compassion toward the protection of families within their states. As a result of these signed proclamations, we are seeing an increase in diagnoses and more families protected," Bruzzone said.

"Today, with genetic testing and subsequent cancer screenings, unlike those who came before us, today we live…and that’s a good thing!”

To celebrate Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Public Awareness Day, Jill Chang and Team Courage, a Lynch syndrome family and their team of friends, are sponsoring a Lynch Syndrome Walk For Courage at the Lakewood High School Indoor Track, 14100, Franklin Road, Lakewood, Ohio on March 22nd, beginning at 8:00 and lasting through 8:00 am on Sunday, March 23rd. For more information, contact Jill Chang at info(at)lynchcancers(dot)com. Other events are occurring nationwide.

Lynch Syndrome International is an all-volunteer, 501 (c )(3) organization which dedicates itself toward supporting individuals at high risk for Lynch syndrome, providing education to medical professionals, creating public awareness of Lynch syndrome and other hereditary cancers, and support research endeavors.

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Linda Bruzzone
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