Documentary Sheds Light on Living with the Knowledge of Predisposition to Breast and Ovarian Cancer

February 26, 2009

February 26, 2009 — A documentary film about predicting breast and ovarian cancer and the consequences of knowing you are at risk, "In the Family," will be screened March 25 at 7 p.m. in Minor Hall Room 125 at the University of Virginia.

A discussion panel featuring filmmaker Joanna Rudnick will follow the screening.

"In the Family" discusses new genetic screenings that allow women to determine whether they have an increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, the consequences of knowing that information, and the women who live with the risk.

Rudnick begins with her own story of testing positive for the inherited gene mutation known as BRCA, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer. She chronicles the lives of several women as they undergo genetic testing — following them from their decision to seek testing, through the testing process, and in the aftermath when they are coming to terms with the information they receive.
These stories of the first generation of women to live with the knowledge that they are predisposed to a life-threatening disease shed light on what it means to survive a diagnosis of high risk without being consumed or defined by it. Their stories help viewers understand the psychological, legal, ethical, cultural and social complexities of genetic testing for a mutation, which affects the entire family and for which the only treatments involve enormous quality-of-life sacrifices.

The film, which received an award for editing at the Midwest Independent Film Festival, is "emotionally charged," said Ann Gill Taylor, the Betty Norman Norris Professor of Nursing and director of the Center for the Study of Complementary & Alternative Therapies. She is helping to organize the post-screening panel.

This event is presented by the Arts Administration initiative of the McIntire Department of Art, the Center for the Study of Complementary & Alternative Therapies at the U.Va. School of Nursing, the U.Va. Women's Center, the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life, the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities, the Medical Center Hour and The Women's Committee of Martha Jefferson Hospital in collaboration with the award-winning documentary series "P.O.V."

Admission is free. Parking will be available in the Emmet Street Garage.

For information, contact George W. Sampson at or 434-924-7307; or
Colleen Wolfe at or 301-675-3609.

— By Jane Ford