What is Genetic Testing and Why is it so Important?
Your grandmother had breast cancer. Your uncle had breast cancer. Your mom had ovarian cancer. Is it a coincidence or could there be something in your family’s genes that is at the root of all this cancer? The answer is yes.
If your ancestors had cancer, they may have had a mutation (change) in their chromosomes, genes, or proteins. And that mutation can be passed along to other family members. For example, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the best-known genes linked to breast cancer risk. Everyone has these genes, but some people have an inherited mutation in one or both that increases the risk of breast cancer. That’s where OHC can help through genetic counseling.
As part of our comprehensive cancer care services, OHC is now offering the Genetic Risk Evaluation and Testing (GREAT) program, which provides an in-depth cancer risk assessment for people who have a personal and/or family history of cancer. (You do not have to be a patient of OHC to request this service.)
The process starts with an in-depth consultation with one of our cancer genetic specialists, Aimee Brown, MSN, APRN, and Andy Guinigundo, MSN, APRN. They explain what inherited mutations are, how they can affect your health and the health of your children, and gather your family history. After a thorough risk assessment using a variety of techniques is completed, appropriate genetic testing is ordered. Once test results are available, our specialists discuss the findings and address personal concerns. People who test positive for a gene mutation are presented with options for a proactive, individualized care plan that could include surveillance, risk reduction medications, or preventative surgery. The impact of genetic testing results on family members is also discussed.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that inherited mutations play a role in about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers. Researchers have identified several specific inherited mutations that can lead to cancer. Foremost among them are mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which can cause Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome. Colon cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancers are associated with Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colon Cancer, or Lynch syndrome. Other cancers thought to be caused by inherited gene mutations include kidney cancer, melanoma, brain tumors, prostate, pancreatic, and thyroid cancers. OHC has the ability to test for other mutations as well.
At OHC, we believe genetic risk evaluation and testing should be viewed as an essential part of quality cancer prevention and risk reduction. It gives us the opportunity to save lives and reduce the risk of cancer in our communities. It can also help us detect cancer earlier, which increases the chance for a successful outcome. For more information about our Genetic Risk Evaluation and Testing program, call 1-888-649-4800 or complete the Request An Appointment form on this web site.
Karyn M. Dyehouse, MD, is a board certified medical oncologist and hematologist with OHC. She serves as the Chief Medical Officer and specializes in colon and breast cancer.