She was young, had a promising career as a filmmaker. Joanna Rudnick was 27 years old when she tested positive for a mutation in the breast cancer gene BRCA which makes her a high-risk candidate for breast and ovarian cancer. In a way, it seems inevitable because her family has a history of the diseases. In high risk cases like Joanna, pre-emptive removal of the said organs (prophylactic mastectomy and oophorectomy) is sometimes recommended before the monster cancer strikes.
“Armed with a positive genetic test result that leaves her essentially ‘a ticking time bomb’, she balances dreams of having her own children with the unnerving reality that she is risking her life by holding on to her fertility. In The Family follows Joanna as she takes us on a journey through the unpredictable world of predictive genetic testing.
Turning the camera on herself, Joanna bares her conflicting emotions about preventative surgery and the potential consequences. Turning the camera on her new relationship, she and her partner capture a young couple falling in love in the shadow of the mutation. Turning the camera on the company that owns the patents to the BRCA genes, she questions their control over access to the test. Along the way, she looks to other women and families dealing with the same unbelievable information.”
Based on her experience, Joanna wrote, produced and directed “In the Family”. In the process of making the film, Rudnick tries to answer the question “How much do you sacrifice to survive?”
About the interventions
According to a research report at Columbia University, prophylactic mastectomy and oophorectomy can prolong life expectancy by about 8.5 years but “at a great cost to quality of life.” A more recent study University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center seems to confirm that ovary removal can substantially reduce the risk for both cancers.
The lifetime risk of breast cancer ranges from 56 percent to 84 percent, according to the researchers, whereas the risk for ovarian cancer ranges from 36 percent to 46 percent for BRCA1 mutation carriers and 10 percent to 27 percent for BRCA2 mutation carriers.
Cancer event at University of Michigan, March 17
On March 17, 2009, a forum at the University of Michigan will focus on community engagement and breast cancer research. The event at will kick off with a showing of “In the family” as part of the National Institutes of Health-funded program “Engaging the Community in Clinical Research.” The film showing will be followed by a panel discussion, including Joanna Rudnick herself.
Women’s Resource Fair Film Screening, March 20
The film will also be shown at The 2009 Evanston Women’s Resource Fair in Evanston, IL on March 20, 2009.