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Misconceptions & Misunderstandings About Genetic Testing For Hereditary Cancer: My family history of cancer almost guarantees that one day I will develop cancer

Many people who have a family history of cancer often assume that they are at high risk of developing cancer and do not see the value of genetic counseling and genetic testing. The reasoning often goes like this:

“My mother, my cousin, and my grandmother all had breast cancer. I know there is a very high chance that I will develop it too. I would never have a mastectomy, so I am extra good about getting mammograms and my doctor checks my breasts every time I see her. I have a healthy diet, exercise regularly, rarely drink alcohol, and I have never put a cigarette to my lips. Since I am already doing everything I can possibly do, I don’t see how genetic counseling and genetic testing can help me.”

Of course, it is a good idea to be conscientious about your medical care, and everyone should maintain a healthy lifestyle, regardless of family history. The questions that genetic testing may answer for you are:

Misconceptions & Misunderstandings About Genetic Testing For Hereditary Cancer: Don’t Test Me, Test My Family!

As a genetic counselor with 30 years of experience, I have met with many families who have been concerned about their hereditary risks to develop cancer and other disorders. I have found that the complexity of genetics can sometimes cause misunderstandings about some critical information.

A common question that patients ask is this: I already have cancer, it makes no sense for me to have genetic testing, so why don’t you test my family instead?

As it turns out, the best strategy for most families is to for genetic testing to start with a relative who has already been diagnosed with cancer.

  1. If that person has a normal genetic test result, there is usually no need to test any other healthy family members.
  2. Because of the complicated nature of cancer genetics, accurate interpretation of a negative result usually requires an affected relative to have a positive genetic test.
  3. If a patient has a positive genetic test, the cost of testing all other family members will usually be considerably less expensive and increases the likelihood that health insurers will cover the test.

Let’s clarify this with a specific example.

Three sisters, all in their 30s, want to undergo genetic testing because their mother is a breast cancer survivor, and ...

The Story Behind the Voice of 1-855-XCANCER (1-855-922-6237)

Being diagnosed with cancer is the beginning of a difficult time. The entire process – from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship – can be exhausting. And, I am sure that when you have questions that come up, you would like to have them answered, respectfully and responsively.

As health professionals we want to ensure that you, your family, friends and caregivers have access to all resources available at the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI). For this reason, Swedish launched a customized phone line tailored to the Cancer Institute where callers can find out more information on services available.

Whether you want to know more about different treatment options, learn more about research studies or locate community cancer resources, I am here to assist you. If you are a new patient and would like to be seen by a provider at the Swedish Cancer Institute, I can help get the process started for you by connecting you with the most appropriate SCI specialist.

To put a story behind the voice over the phone, I would like to officially introduce myself to the Swedish community! I am Swedish’s Integrated Care Services Coordinator and Telephone Liaison for the Swedish Cancer Institute and True Family Women’s Cancer Center – which means I get to work with the entire network of Swedish campuses (including First Hill, Cherry Hill, Issaquah, Ballard and Edmonds) and can help you get connected to the appropriate areas of service that you may need.

I can help to answer any questions you may have, or connect you to the following:

Swedish Foundation Raises $10 Million for True Family Women’s Cancer Center; New Facility Set to Open in 2012

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