Is genetic testing right for you? One woman shares her personal story of fighting cancer and how genetic testing helped her.
TAMPA, Florida – Cancer – Just hearing the word can be scary. But what if you could find out what cancer might be in your future, would you like to know? Genetic testing gives doctors and patients the ability to better control their health in the future.
Steph Alastre is a licensed certified genetics consultant. She explains why genetic testing is so important.
“The number one goal of genetic testing is to help us prevent cancer if we can,” Alastre said. “This is obviously what we would like to do, but in case we cannot prevent it, we would like to find it very early when the treatment is most successful.”
At Moffitt Cancer Center, genetic testing is regularly used not only to predict risk, but also to target the treatment of current patients. Alastre says they’re only scratching the surface.
“I think we’re on the cusp of so many discoveries and I think it’s just exponential compared to the amount of information we learn through genetics and how we can use it to best serve our patients,” – she said.
Miriam Simms is all too aware of her risk, having had her first genetic test back in 2010 after being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at just 43 years old.
“As a result, I had the BRCA-1 variant,” Zimms said.
And that was just the beginning of her journey.
“I was a preventative for ovarian cancer by having my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed and then getting an unrelated primary bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. So it all happened over a three-year period,” she said.
For Zimms, chondrosarcoma could not be treated with chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery was the only way out.
“It just so happened that it was in my left pelvis. So they removed most of my left pelvis. They removed my hip joint and femur,” Zimms said.
This led to a second, larger round of genetic testing in 2013. Zimms shares his story because he knows that some people are skeptical about genetic testing, and some people can be scared by the results. But for her, information is power.
“For me, it was my decision to move forward and try to piece together my puzzle and help myself, my family and others,” she said.
But this is a personal decision and should be guided by a genetic consultant such as Alastre.
“Then when the results come back, if they come back positive, part of my job is to say that here are some of the recommendations for what we’re going to do next for this particular genetic mutation. For example, as we should follow you go ahead,” said Alastre.
Zimms is currently cancer-free, but because she is aware of her risk, she is regularly screened for several different types of cancer.
“This is how I live. I would like life instead of cancer,” she said. “This is how I want to live my life, and this information gives me hope, [and] continues to give me courage.”
As research continues, doctors may be looking for more genetic mutations that may indicate a predisposition to many different types of cancer.
So who should be tested? Family history is the key. If several people in your family have had the same type of cancer, especially if they had it at a young age, you may want to consider getting tested, but it’s best to talk to your doctor and genetic counselor before getting tested to really understand. your risk.
Click here for more information about Moffitt Cancer Center.