Genetic Testing Comes to Lakeview Health

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We’re all familiar with the phrase “it runs in the family.” From an obvious family resemblance to a not-so-obvious inherited trait such as the shape of our earlobes, much of who we are physically comes from our DNA, which comes from the DNA of our biological parents.
The Human Genome Project estimates that we have about 20,000 genes. The genes in our DNA are like a tool kit, used by different cells in different ways. Most cells use only a few of the many, many possible functions of our genes.
The ever-expanding world of genetic testing has allowed healthcare providers to offer their patients a simple blood or saliva test that can determine their risk for hereditary cancers. 

​        All cancers are caused by harmful mutations, or changes in DNA. Mutations in DNA happen regularly, but most of these changes are not harmful and do not cause cancer. The changes usually occur by chance; for example, when cells divide to produce new cells, a mistake in cell division could introduce a tiny change. Fortunately, these mutations are usually automatically repaired by your body.
Sometimes, however, the mutation is not repaired and is passed on when the cell divides. If the mutation is harmful and interferes with a critical function, such as regulating cell growth or DNA repair, the mutation can make the cells more cancer-like. If enough of these mutations occur in a cell, cancer may be the result.
“All cancer is genetic, in that it is triggered by altered genes. Genes that control the orderly replication of cells become damaged, allowing the cells to reproduce without restraint.”
— National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health 


            Most cancers develop from random mutations, but up to 10 percent are inherited, or hereditary. Certain inherited genetic mutations can make it much more likely that someone with the mutation will get cancer, as well as develop it earlier or even develop multiple cancers in their lifetime.
Sometimes, however, a family will appear to have a hereditary cancer when what they actually share is a living or working environment that exposes them to radiation or chemicals that can cause mutations. Your healthcare professional can help you determine which could be true in your case.
            If you do carry an inherited mutation that has been linked to cancer, knowing your risk of cancer can help you and your healthcare professional make better, more informed decisions about your healthcare, possibly before cancer has even had a chance to develop. When talking about your genetic family history, the only family members who matter are your biological relatives. For example, your father is a biological first-degree relative his biological brother, your uncle is a biological second-degree relative. If he marries a woman, she becomes your aunt, but she is not a biological relative. If they have a child, however, that child is your first cousin and a biological third-degree relative.

            When talking about your genetic family history, the only family members who matter are your biological relatives. For example, your father is a biological first-degree relative his biological brother, your uncle is a biological second-degree relative. If he marries a woman, she becomes your aunt, but she is not a biological relative. If they have a child, however, that child is your first cousin and a biological third-degree relative.


            To help assess whether you might be a candidate for testing, take the Hereditary Cancer Quiz.  This simple, 30-second quiz can help you get the information you need to discuss your risk of cancer with your healthcare professional and ask for further evaluation. If you take the quiz and find red flags in your own history or your family history, you may benefit from genetic cancer testing.

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