Genetics' Role in Cancer Revealed

If you knew you had a good chance of getting cancer, you'd want to do something about it. A relatively new area of medicine can help you get that knowledge.

Genetic counseling can size up your cancer risk and help you take action. Cotton-O'Neil medical oncologist Dr. David Einspahr says about ten percent of colon, breast and ovarian cancers are inherited. Researchers have identified defective genes for those cancers, but it's only recently that doctors could take the research back to the doctor's office, and identify which people have those genes and, as a result, a higher risk of cancer.

Dr. Einspahr says the information is useful because when it's known a person is at higher than normal risk, doctors can develop prevention and early detection programs for those patients to catch cancer before it develops.

Cotton-O'Neil launched its cancer genetic counseling program six months ago. The first step in the counseling process is research. Lenna Levitch, one of only three certified genetic counselors in Kansas, says she'll have patients gather information on their relatives who've been affected by cancer, including what type it was and how old they were when they were diagnosed.

With that information, a computer program maps out odds a person has inherited a cancer gene. Depending on those odds, patients may go on to get a blood test, to determine if they do in fact carry a cancer gene. Either way, doctors use the information to map out whether screenings like mammogram or colonoscopy should begin at an earlier age.

Levitch says genetic counseling may sound scary, but she says people should see it as an opportunity to be empowered with information. She says genetic counseling can allow a patient to be proactive rather than reactive.

You can learn more about Cotton-O'Neil's cancer genetic counseling and testing program by calling 354-9591. You can also visit with your own doctor to be referred to the program.

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American Cancer Society
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Upcoming Cancer-Related Educational Opportunities in Topeka
May 3rd
Community Presentation
Dr. Harold Freeman, past-president, American Cancer Society
"Navigating the Way to Quality Cancer Care"
7:30 to 8:30 pm
Pozez Auditorium, 1505 SW 8th
Seating is limited - call Health Connections for a reservation, 354-5225
Sponsored by the Cancer Center at Stormont-Vail and the American Cancer Society

May 4
Second Annual Cancer Update Conference
8 am to 3:30 pm
Pozez Education Center
Event for physicians, nurses and other health professionals
call 354-5825 for more information
Sponsored by Stormont-Vail, the American Cancer Society, and the Kansas Medical Education Foundation

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