Help for Hereditary Breast, Ovarian Cancer a Call Away

New phone help line offers support, resources

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A peer-support help line for women concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer has been established by the University of Pennsylvania and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), a U.S. national advocacy group.

The toll-free help line at 1-866-824-RISK (7475) is staffed by volunteers who have undergone genetic counseling.

"Confronting real fears about illness -- such as breast and ovarian cancer -- is as important in treating a patient as dealing with the illness itself," James Coyne, a professor of psychiatry at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, says in a prepared statement.

"This help line is part of a continuum of cancer care that stretches from early prevention through to treatment," Coyne says.

Along with offering direct contact and emotional support, the help line volunteers have a 72-page resource guide for offering referrals and direction to more than 200 sources of information about hereditary risk and genetic counseling.

The staff won't answer medical questions. Instead, callers will be referred to the nearest sources of medical expertise.

"Increasing numbers of women are finding out about their family history of breast and ovarian cancer, seeking genetic counseling and, depending on many factors, getting screened for their genetic risk of developing the disease," FORCE executive director Sue Friedman says in a prepared statement.

"This help line meets the growing need for more personal and informed support -- beyond what is available through other telephone lines and Web sites -- by offering direct help from people who have experienced the same unknown fear of what may -- or may not -- lie ahead," Friedman says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about FORCE.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, news release, December 2003


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