Joanna RudnickWhen Chicago filmmaker Joanna Rudnick tested positive for the “breast cancer gene” at age 27, she set out to make In the Family. Although she had no intention of “starring” in her own movie, she couldn’t find a young, unmarried woman with the mutation who hadn’t had surgery and was willing to be filmed. Joanna then turned the camera on herself, her burgeoning relationship, sought out other women with the mutation and confronted the company that owns the patent on the BRCA gene. The result is an intensely personal and brave documentary that offers a poignant account of Joanna’s journey, as well as a timely inside look at the human impact of new genetic research.

In the Family airs on most PBS stations on Wednesday, October 1 at 10 PM. (Schedules vary, so
check your local listings.

In her filmmaker interview with POV, Joanna offers some advice for young women who have cancer in their family history. She says:

I think the first thing I would say to any woman who has a history of breast and ovarian cancer in her family and who is thinking about getting the test is to really think about what she might do when she gets the results. Before taking the test, she should try to think about what decisions she might make if she tests positive and know that it might be a long journey ahead. Once she get the results, there’s no turning back, and she’s going to be making decisions for her future based on this information. There are so many life questions that are involved in getting a positive test result, including the possibility of passing on this gene to children.

Read more from Joanna’s interview, and find out how testing positive for the mutation has affected Joanna’s relationship with her family, how it impacted her romantic relationship and more.

Do you have a question for Joanna? Enter it in the comment field below, and she will select a few questions and answer them the week of October 6, 2008.

Added October 20, 2008: Joanna answered viewer questions about other forms of cancer, and whether she would ever consider alternative treatments. Read her responses to viewer questions.

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Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.