First BRCA support group to open in Montreal

By Rhonda Massad

The first Montreal based BRCA support group will open its doors and will meet twice a month on Tuesdays, starting Oct. 14, from 7-9 p.m., at the YM-YWHA on Westbury Avenue in Montreal.

The group will provide women who are at risk of developing hereditary breast or ovarian cancer or have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation an informal arena where they can exchange experiences and give peer support to one another.

Karen Malkin-Lazarovitz and Rachel Silva-Smith joined forces along with help from Willow Breast and Hereditary Cancer Support, a national, not-for-profit organization, when they realized they could offer a much needed service to women exploring genetic testing, worried about a lump, waiting for test results or coming to terms with a diagnosis.

Smith is the daughter of parent with a gene mutation and luckily tested negative with a background in genealogy working at the Jewish General Hospital. Malkin also has a parent with a gene mutation and tested positive in 2005 to carrying the mutated gene.
Malkin, within a few months of diagnosis, had a double mastectomy and a full preventative hysterectomy to dramatically reduce her chance of getting cancer by almost 40 percent.
Having started a support Facebook page when diagnosed in 2005 with over 3,500 followers, Malkin is fully aware of the need for support during this often overwhelming experience.

“There is much to be said for the internet and the support group that has developed over the years,” Malkin explained to The Suburban in an interview, “but there is an aspect of show and tell and just a simple need to speak to someone, that cannot be achieved online. One of the first things I did when I was diagnosed was seek out someone who had had the surgeries I was up for to see what it would look like.” 

“This is not a decision to have a boob job. This is a decision to have an amputation and a decision you make while you are healthy,” she explained. “Not everyone goes the route that I went. Some people choose to monitor more carefully through with increased screening or drug therapies such as tamoxifen.”

The support group will provide that provides free support, insight and information to anyone, including those at high risk and those affected by breast and hereditary cancer.

More information is available by contacting the group at
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