Especially for those with a family history, screening for cancer is a source of anxiety. However, being as informed as possible about your own health can lead to better outcomes overall. At Carnegie Women’s Health, we offer in-house genetic screening and counseling for hereditary cancer, so patients can learn whether they are at a higher risk. Curious about your genetic cancer screening options? Keep reading to learn more.
How Do Geneticists Screen for Cancer?
Geneticists screen for cancer by looking for mutations in genes that are associated with an increased risk for cancer. For example, increased risk for breast cancer is associated with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. These mutations tend to be inherited, meaning that they are passed down within families. For this reason, patients with a family history of a certain type of cancer are more often screened for genetic cancer risk.
Who Should Have Genetic Cancer Screening?
Not all patients require genetic cancer screening. However, several risk factors may indicate that you may benefit from having your DNA tested for markers of generic screening. For example, having multiple family members with the same type of cancer on the same side of your family is a good indicator that you may have an increased risk. Similarly, those with a family history of early-onset cancer or who have had previous cancer diagnoses themselves can benefit from genetic testing. Finally, patients who are Ashkenazi Jewish benefit can benefit from genetic cancer screening, as this group has a higher risk for breast cancer or other cancers.
What are the Benefits of Genetic Cancer Screening?
Patients who are found to have these gene mutations don’t need to worry that they definitely will have cancer at some point in their lifetime. Having an inherited predisposition for a type of cancer means that your body has fewer defenses against cancer, but this does not mean that cancer is inevitable.
Instead, finding that you are predisposed to a type of genetic counselor allows you and your doctor to better prepare for your healthcare. Often, this means that routine cancer screening and testing will be recommended for you. For example, a woman who finds she is genetically more likely to develop breast cancer may schedule more frequent or earlier mammograms. This way, she would be more prepared to treat breast cancer early should it develop.
Meet Our Geneticist
At Carnegie Women’s Health, Dr. Tamar Goldwaser helps guide patients through the genetic cancer screening process. Dr. Goldwaser is board-certified in both Obstetrics & Gynecology and Clinical Genetics. As a geneticist, she specializes in hereditary cancer syndromes including BRCA1, BRCA2, and Lynch syndrome. Dr. Goldwaser works with patients to review their family history with cancer and determine whether testing their genetics is necessary, then helps to guide them through interpreting results of their genetic tests and creating the best possible healthcare plan.
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