Genetic testing a ‘game changer’ for cancer detection
Patients of Butler Health System may qualify to take a genetic test to determine if they are likely to develop cancer.
Judy Hansotte, nurse navigator in the women’s imaging center at Butler Health System, said genetic testing, which began being offered at the system around three years ago, can help a patient decide how to proceed with cancer-related treatment.
“They may be able to just have the lumpectomy,” Hansotte said. “If they have the gene they may opt to do the mastectomy. So it has been a game changer for some of our patients as to what their plan of care is for their breast cancer.”
The imaging center administered a lot of genetic tests when they first became available, but Lisa Moore, a women’s imaging supervisor for Butler Health System, said there has not been as many given recently.
Moore also said there are some criteria needed for health system staff to recommend that a patient take a genetic test.
“They have lots of questions they have to answer to determine their risk of developing cancer,” Moore said. “If people come in and we see that they have a family history and we ask them if they want to do it.”
Patients can submit a genetic sample, typically a spit sample, to the imaging center, and results come back about two weeks after submission, Hansotte said.
If the results show that a patient carries a gene that indicates the possibility that they may develop cancer, Hansotte contacts patients to discuss it with a genetic counselor.
Moore said a positive result could motivate a patient to pursue more comprehensive treatment.
“If they carry the gene, they're probably going to want to do a mastectomy, because the odds that (cancer) could come back are greater,” Moore said.
According to Hansotte, a positive result on a genetic test means it is simply more likely for a person to develop a form of cancer compared to a person without that gene. A patient with a positive result may not develop cancer, and a patient without a cancerous gene may still be diagnosed at some point.
Hansotte said the test is mainly to determine a person’s likelihood of developing cancer.
“If you carry the gene, you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer,” Hansotte said. “It's just another tool to help with early diagnosis of things.”
Moore also said the test can show other genes that could lead to health-related issues.
“A patient may not have any breast issues, but we find out they have a gene for issues with their colon, then they can talk to their provider about what to do,” Moore said.
Taking a genetic test is not the end-all answer when it comes to cancer diagnoses, but Moore said a test can be a revealing to a person’s overall health.
“Some women, they think they know their history, but things don't get passed down,” Moore said. “Things weren't talked about in the olden days as much. You may think you didn't have it in your family, but you actually had a great-grandma who had it. If you are adopted or you don't know your history it's a good way to have some testing.”