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GENETIC TESTING FOR HEREDITARY CANCERS

Do you have a family or a personal history of breast, ovarian, uterine, or colon cancer? If you do, you may be a candidate for genetic testing. At All Care for Women, we offer genetic testing to our patients to help prepare for a healthier future.

Cancers occur because of acquired gene mutations like sun exposure or tobacco use. However, some cancers are linked to the genes we inherit from our parents. To better understand this testing, I will define some common terms as quoted by the American Cancer Society.

"Genetics - the field of science that looks at how traits, like your eye color, are passed down from parents to their children through genes.

Genes- pieces of DNA inside our cells that tell the cell how to make the proteins the body needs to function. Genes affect inherited traits passed on from a parent to a child, such as hair color, eye color, and height."

Being a carrier of a certain gene can put you at increased risk of developing certain cancers. Therefore, if you have an immediate family member with a known genetic mutation, or you have a personal history of cancer, you should discuss genetic testing with your healthcare provider. Also, if you have a family member less than age 50 or you have two or more family members on the same side of your family with cancer at any age, you may be a candidate
for genetic testing.

Prior to your appointment, you should gather a complete family history including the type of cancer, age of the person at diagnosis, and if any genetic testing has ever been done. You should also know if you have any family history of jewish ancestry as this may also put you at increased risk of genetic mutations.

There are several different genetic testing options. Most of these can be done in the office without having to go to an outside facility. We may take a saliva sample, swab your inner cheek, or take a blood sample. Your health care provider will determine the best test for you.

Once your genetic results are received we will call you for an appointment. If the results are negative, it does not mean you will never get cancer; rather, it means you did not inherit any gene mutations. If the results are positive, it is recommended to have additional screening or treatments depending on the gene and the type of cancer in your personal or family history. Your health care provider will make an individual evaluation and treatment plan for you.

For example, if you have a family history of breast cancer you may test positive for the BRACA-1 gene mutation. If this is the case, you may be recommended to have a screening mammogram and a breast MRI every year alternating them every 6 months. You may also be recommended to have an ovarian cancer screening. Depending on your results, age, and overall health, your health care provider may recommend to have your breasts or ovaries removed to prevent developing cancer.

Genetic testing is a personal decision, but it is an important one. We will be happy to discuss this further or answer any other questions you may have about genetic testing.

Author
Kearsten Howe-Ball PA-C

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