According to Amy Sturm, certified genetic counselor at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James), patients who undergo genetic testing via medical professionals with specialized training in genetics seem to obtain comprehensive risk assessment, education and support.
Genetic testing refers to examining DNA for inborn genetic alterations. These alterations could possibly increase a person’s risk of developing a disease or disorder. Also, it seems to be becoming increasingly popular. Something which is frequently ignored is believed to be the significance of genetic counseling before a test is completed and again when the test results are delivered.
The researchers reveal the case of Cori Williams who was driving home with four children in her car when she received a call stating that she had been diagnosed positive for a genetic mutation. This genetic mutation was known to significantly increase her likelihood for developing both breast and ovarian cancer.
“I don’t remember the rest of the drive home, because I was so upset. I can’t believe my doctor’s office gave me that kind of sensitive and potentially upsetting information over the phone, instead of in person,” says Williams, 32, who lives near Cincinnati.
Sturm, who counsels patients as part of Ohio State’s Clinical Cancer and Medical Genetics Programs stated that, “Patients who are considering having genetic testing and counseling to determine their risk for hereditary cancers and other diseases should ask their physicians to refer them to a trained genetic specialist in their area.”
Pre-test genetic counseling could possibly assist in determining whether testing is actually appropriate. In addition, it may perhaps help the patient recognize the benefits, limitations, and potential risks of genetic testing. Furthermore, it will psychologically help in preparing a person who chooses to undertake a test.
Supposedly, post-test counseling is important as it may help the person understand the test results and the higher likelihood or genetic susceptibility they and their at-risk family members have. Furthermore, it could determine what steps the person should take next for risk reduction and management. Sturm was of the opinion that anyone with a personal or family history of early onset cancer, or of multiple relatives with the same type of cancer, must perhaps consider genetic counseling and testing.
Williams ultimately sought genetic counseling at OSUCCC-James so that she could be able to learn more about her possibilities and options from a trained specialist. During counseling, she learned that changes or mutations inside the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes seem to cause ‘hereditary breast ovarian cancer syndrome.’ These mutations may greatly increase her lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Sturm said that mutation carriers are encouraged to begin breast self-exams at age 18, and to start having mammograms and breast MRIs at age 25. Also, screening for ovarian cancer which includes a blood test and vaginal ultrasound are an alternative which should be started by age 30. Prophylactic surgeries which are performed in order to eliminate vulnerable organs also seem to be options for risk reduction.
OSUCCC-James and Ohio State University Medical Center are noted to have developed a free, online assessment tool called as Family HealthLink. Supposedly, this tool allows individuals to enter their family medical history and determine their risk for both cancer and heart disease.
It was estimated that cancer and heart disease are the top two causes of death in the United States. The survey seems to take nearly 15 minutes to complete. Additionally, it may offer a printable risk assessment which could be used for discussion with a physician or genetic counselor.
“Genetics professionals are there to make sure that each patient receives the right tests and the results are interpreted accurately and appropriate risk reduction strategies can be offered to the patient,” elucidates Sturm.
However, patients planning to undergo genetic testing for cancer and other conditions should keep in mind that genetic testing will not be able to detect all causes of hereditary conditions reveal the experts associated with these findings. People devoid of specific gene changes such as BRCA mutations might still develop cancer.
Evidently, health insurance often, but not always, covers the expenditure of genetic counseling and testing. Also, not everyone may require genetic testing. For instance, only about 5 to 10 percent of all breast and ovarian cancers seem to be hereditary.