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  • Writer's pictureManja Gideon Foundation

“A sheet of paper and a pencil can save lives”

Updated: 5 days ago

It was with those words that Dr. Michael Rabner ended his recent lecture on ovarian cancer symptoms, summing up how you can take action yourself. When you do a thorough examination of your own family history, it can help you locate a common thread in the case of familial clustering. This info session seamlessly weaved together the importance of both patient proactivity and networks. 

(left to right) Dr. Michael Rabner, Erika Gideon, Janna Ulrich, Photo: Adrian Ehrat
Left to right: Dr. Michael Rabner, Erika Gideon, Janna Ulrich, Photo: Adrian Ehrat

One way of better understanding cancer clusters in close family and relatives is by finding a common thread in your family history. All you have to do is fill in a family tree form (link to Because cancer occurs more frequently in some families. If you have a family history of cancer, familial clustering may be an indicator of your own risk. 

Since 2019, the Zurich Cancer League and the Manja Gideon Foundation have collaborated on ovarian cancer information sessions in Zurich and Winterthur each year around the time of World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8. The event was completely booked up yet again this year – a sign that direct dialogue and independent information are still highly valued. The series of lectures and podium discussions is designed to educate people about topics ranging from ovarian cancer symptoms and the role of genetic mutations in breast and ovarian cancer to the psychological impact of the disease and genetic counselling. 

In his insightful and accessible lecture, Dr. med. Michael Rabner, an OB-GYN with his own practice in Zurich, explained the symptoms of ovarian cancer – which are so general that women often ignore them for a long time. After all, who goes to the doctor for gas and a stomachache? He pointed out that there is still no early detection method for the disease. But BRCA mutations, which are passed on by both women and men, have a significant impact on breast and ovarian cancer risk. People with these mutations can improve their chances of avoiding cancer through prophylactic surgery. So his recommendation to all men and women in the audience is: Get tested!

The discussion with Janna Ulrich, representative of the BRCA Group Switzerland, was a great enrichment to the evening’s program. For the first time in the eight years since the group was founded, one of its members agreed to talk about their work. And she was very enthusiastic about it: “You can ask me anything – I’m an open book!” 

There are currently around 40 women with BRCA mutations from all over Switzerland in the group. Some have already been diagnosed with cancer; others have not. They meet online the first Tuesday of each month, communicate via a WhatsApp group and can contact one another any time. To find out how the group works and why self-help groups are a great source of strength, watch this interview with her here.

Find out the dates of the upcoming group meetings here.


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