To Test or Not to Test, That is the Question – 5/05/17

Our expert voices conversation on genetic testing for cancer.

Most people who have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to cancer don’t know it. They also aren’t aware they could act on that knowledge and make choices that could save their life. A seemingly ideal solution would be to make cancer genetic tests a primary care routine for all adults.

Here’s the problem: Genetic testing is imperfect and genetic care is still in its infancy.

  • Patients may think one normal test means they won’t get cancer. But genetics is evolving and test results are predictions that are frequently under revision.
  • There currently aren’t enough genetic counselors to communicate what we know – and don’t know – about test results and we’re not close to meeting demand.
  • Fear of discrimination by insurance companies or employers can stop patients from agreeing to routine genetic analysis.

A real solution: Prevention. Gain knowledge of your family’s cancer history. Stop smoking. Limit how much alcohol you drink. Exercise regularly. Get vaccinated.

Bottom line: Even without knowing our genetic test result, we can make concrete choices to help avert a future cancer.

The other voices in the conversation:

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Genetics and Cancer: Why Testing Can Aid Prevention – 3/11/17

In her new book, “A Cancer in the Family: Take Control of your Genetic Inheritance,” Dr. Theodora Ross addresses how our family’s medical history plays a role in our health. To shed some light on the genetics of cancer, as well as genetic counseling, Ross spoke with “Take Care” to explain the importance of knowing your family history.

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Talking to the Fearless Theo Ross – 2/04/17

A couple of weeks ago, we published Distinct Brca1 Mutations Differentially Reduce Hematopoietic Stem Cell Function by Theo Ross and her colleagues at UT Southwestern. Dr. Ross is a great example of a scientist who is doing both. She’s the author of a popular book about cancer, and she’s unafraid to say what’s on her mind.

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A Crime in the Cancer Lab – 1/28/17

Hidden cameras and the beauty of the scientific method.

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‘We don’t have enough genetic counselors [or] doctors who understand genetics’ – 12/09/16

“We don’t have enough genetic counselors. We don’t have enough doctors who understand genetics. So when people get genetic tests, they think, ‘Oh, it’s done. I’ve done it. I’m fine.’ But it’s not. It’s not a single event.

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Psychology Today Guest Column – 2/08/16 Through Today

Can a blood test for cancer be a dangerous proposition? Depends on the test.

For one ovarian cancer patient, let’s call her Emily, treatment based on blood test results led to her premature death.

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Chasing Cancer: What Your Genes (don’t) Tell You – 12/06/16

Can genetic testing help mitigate cancer risk? (Washington Post Live)

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I tried to ignore genetic warnings about cancer, and that could have been fatal – 11/27/16

My sister, Bea, was 35 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and 38 years old when she died in 1993. She left behind a husband, two toddlers and, innocently, a genetic legacy that our family continues to confront today.

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Reading books for emotional support can help you overcome dark days, uplift your spirits and even prompt new perspectives and help you focus on the big picture, physicians say.
If you are dealing with breast cancer, you can find authoritative health guides, patient-centered guides, memoirs and novels.

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Second piece ran 9/1/16

All cancers are caused by genetic mutations, but not all genetic mutations are inherited. When the genes that suppress runaway cell growth don’t function correctly, cells divide uncontrollably and clump together in a tumor. That’s what we call cancer. In most cases of breast cancer, these genes turn faulty because of some environmental factor, like smoking or too much radiation. Other times, though, you inherit a copy from your parents. That’s an inherited mutation.

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Copyright 2017. Theodora Ross. All Rights Reserved