All of us will be touched by cancer in some way. The American Cancer Society estimates that one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer in their lifetime. It is important to remember that we can do some things to reduce our chances of getting cancer or increase our odds in finding it early.
Over the past 10 years, cancer prevention and early detection have become important components of a good health care program. Studies have shown that the prevention and detection of cancer can help you live a long and healthy life. But how do we know what our individual chances are? Or our family’s chances? And, is there anything we can do to help prevent us from getting cancer or find it early when it is most treatable?
Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health offers cancer genetic risk assessments and genetic counseling to women and men who have concerns about their personal and/or family history of cancer. Participants are provided with personalized information regarding genetic influences, specific cancer risks and targeted screening and prevention options. Call (816) 751-3775 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Does cancer run in your family?
Most cancer is sporadic—it occurs by chance alone. But 7-10 percent of cancer is hereditary, or passed from generation to generation. Hereditary cancer has general features that include:
- A personal or family history of cancer diagnosed at a young age (earlier than 50 years old).
- Multiple primary cancers in yourself or another family member.
- Clusters or patterns of cancer in a family, such as breast and ovarian, colon and uterine, or melanoma and pancreatic.
If you have one or more of these risk factors, cancer assessment and risk evaluation may be for you. Understanding what cancer is and the risk factors involved can help each person understand their own risk, take preventive action, and find the screening strategies that are right for them.
Cancer assessment and risk evaluation by a genetic counselor may help individuals in hereditary cancer families make better health decisions and prevent disease. Cancer Genetic Counseling can include the following:
- Collection of detailed medical and family histories
- Pedigree drawing and analysis
- Review of indicated medical records
- Patient education
- Cancer risk analysis
- Discussion of the medical and psychosocial implications of cancer risk and genetic testing as indicated
- Medical management of cancer risk and options
- Genetic testing following informed consent
- Results disclosure
- Resource referral
Even if there’s a pattern of cancer in your family, cancer doesn’t have to be inevitable. You may benefit from learning more about your own risk, the potential risk for your children, and other family members. Current cancer research shows that early detection, along with proactive medical care, has proven to help reduce risk and save lives.
The complexities of cancer genetic counseling are unique and require a significant time commitment on the part of the practitioner. Many healthcare providers feel they have neither the time nor the expertise to provide these important services for their patients.
Genetic counseling can benefit patients and their relatives by providing:
- Risk assessments
- Genetic cancer education
- Medical management and testing options
- Reassurance and guidance to patients and family members
- A multidisciplinary cancer team approach to patient care
The genetic counselors with Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health are all board certified and have combined clinical experience of more than 65 years between them.
Lenna M. Levitch, MS, CGC directs the CAARE Program for HCA Midwest Health. She is a master’s degree trained professional with 25 years of clinical experience in the field of genetics. Lenna is board certified as a genetic counselor by the American Board of Medical Genetics and the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She specializes in the area of hereditary cancer.
Molly M. Lund, MS, CGC is a senior genetic counselor with the CAARE Program. She is a board certified genetic counselor by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a Master’s in Genetic Counseling. Her experience includes over 11 years in pediatric, prenatal and hereditary cancer genetic counseling.
Patricia M. Shires, MS, CGC is a senior genetic counselor with the CAARE Program. She earned her Master’s degree in genetic counseling at Sarah Lawrence College and is board certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Patricia has over 20 years of experience working as a genetic counselor in prenatal and hereditary cancer counseling.
Ashley C. Davis, MS, CGC is a genetic counselor with the CAARE Program. Ashley has a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular science and a master’s degree in genetic counseling. She is a board certified genetic counselor by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She has three years of experience, including pediatric, prenatal, and hereditary cancer genetic counseling.