Genetic counseling after cancer diagnosis


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I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two months ago. My oncologist recommended that I have genetic testing as part of the treatment plan. Why is this recommended if I already have cancer? What is the benefit of testing? And what information will you provide?

ANSWER: Genetic counseling can be an important part of the cancer process. A genetic test looks for specific harmful genetic changes, called pathogenic mutations or variants, that can cause someone to develop a disease. genetic condition. Genetic changes are like spelling mistakes in the body’s instruction manual.

Most genetic tests look for changes in a group of genes called a panel. However, tests can look for changes in a single gene when there is a known genetic mutation in your family. The most common genes are typically thought to be related to cancer risk They are BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes are associated with breast and ovarian cancer. It is known that changes in other genes may also increase the risk of these types of cancer.

During the cancer process, genetic testing can help your care team make recommendations for treatment and surgical procedures. For example, some cancers associated with genetic mutations respond better to certain types of chemotherapy treatments than others. Similarly, genetic testing can help patients make surgical decisions. For example, a breast cancer patient may use the information to determine whether to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Genetic testing can also affect cancer risk management over time.

Genetic test results can help your family members. Potentially, your children, siblings, nieces and nephews could have inherited the same genetic mutation. For example, if you had a BRCA gene change and tests showed it, your family members have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Knowing this information can be valuable in helping them establish early detection programs and make healthy choices throughout their lives.

It’s important to know that most cancers are considered sporadic, meaning the cancer occurs randomly or has environmental influences, such as smoking and lung cancer. About 25% of cancers are considered familial. This is when several members of a family are affected by cancer. These members of the family they have some shared genetic factors in combination with shared environmental factors that lead to the development of these cancers.

About 10% of cancers are considered hereditary, or have a specific, unique genetic component that can be tested for and increase a person’s risk of developing cancer. Genetic counseling and genetic testing can help determine which category your cancer falls into.

Many other health conditions have a genetic link. Genetic testing can help you and your health care team understand if you are at increased risk for other conditions that run in your family. If you are at risk, you may be able to take preventive measures to lower your risk or undergo genetic test to clarify your risk.

While you can’t change your genes, you can control some aspects of your environment, such as your diet and level of physical activity, as well as your alcohol and tobacco use. That’s why it’s still so important to live a healthy life, regardless of your personal and family genetic history.

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