From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

August 11, 2020

There are many things we can do to reduce our risk of developing cancer. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Make exercise a regular part of each day. Avoid tobacco and alcohol and stay current on vaccinations and screenings. There is also important information we need to ask our relatives, on our mother’s side and our father’s side: does cancer run in our family?

Gathering basic information about whether or not your relatives had cancer seems like an easy task, but we sometimes just don’t ask. It could be that the topic is uncomfortable, or it may not seem important. Whatever the reason, most people don’t know their family’s history of cancer and they don’t know that it’s important to share their personal history with their family doctor or cancer doctor.

“It’s important to ask your relatives who in your family had cancer, what type of cancer, and their age when diagnosed. Then share this information with your doctor or a cancer genetic specialist because together, you can determine if cancer genetic counseling would benefit you,” said OHC’s Andy Guinigundo, MSN, APRN, and cancer genetic specialist. “There’s a belief that if no one in my family has cancer, I won’t get it either. Likewise, people believe if cancer runs in their family, they will get it, too. This isn’t always the case.”

OHC offers a Genetic Risk Evaluation and Testing Program (GREAT) that provides counseling to help people determine their risk for developing cancer and if that risk is due to a disease-related gene condition. And you don’t have to be a patient of OHC to use the program.

When you meet with an OHC cancer genetic specialist, together you will discuss your family history of cancer, your risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome, and whether or not you should have further genetic testing. When your assessment is complete, your OHC specialist will discuss your results in great detail and will provide you with a personalized plan that will include, among other things, screening recommendations.

“Another common belief is that if I have a strong family history of cancer or a genetic condition, there is nothing I can do to protect myself. The reality is that there are a number of things you can do, and we’ll review the preventative and maintenance steps you can take in your personalized genetic summary report. If needed, we’ll include family members in your educational meetings so they are also armed with the facts and information,” said Andy.

“I had symptoms that I ignored and went through several health issues. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 37, and realized I had a family history of cancer, that I decided to meet with an OHC genetic cancer specialist and get tested,” said OHC patient Brian McGilligan.

Brian was positive for Lynch syndrome, a type of inherited cancer syndrome associated with a genetic predisposition to different types of cancer, including colon cancer.

“OHC provided me with a personalized plan for my own health. And we talked about my children because my real concern is whether or not I have passed it on to them. We discussed when my kids should have genetic testing, when to begin screening and more,” Brian said.

A detailed family history review is part of every OHC patient’s assessment. OHC can provide you and your family with answers to questions about your cancer risk, steps to take to reduce that risk and, most of all, peace of mind.

There are three steps everyone should follow to reduce their risk of cancer.

  • The first step is to know your family history of cancer. At your next family gathering, such as Thanksgiving, even if you’re celebrating virtually this year, you can ask family members about their health history. This should include parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews.
  • Second, share this information with your doctors and your children’s pediatrician – even if they don’t ask – so it’ll be part of their medical records for future reference.
  • Most importantly, seek medical advice immediately whenever any symptoms arise, or if you notice anything different about your health. You know your body best. If something’s different, don’t ignore it or put off a visit to a doctor. If you have concerns that it may be cancer, you can meet with one of our doctors who will evaluate your symptoms and help determine next steps, including if genetic screening is right for you.

Genetic risk evaluation and testing is an opportunity to save lives and reduce the risk of cancer in our communities. To learn more about OHC’s genetic testing program or to schedule a consultation with an OHC cancer genetic specialist, please visit ohcare.com or call 1-888-649-4800.

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