COLUMBIA - The Ellis Fischel Cancer Center said Friday almost 10 percent of cancers result from hereditary traits.
At the center, certified genetic counselor Stacey Miller has worked with patients and their families to understand the risks of inheriting specific cancers. Doctors swab patients' cheeks or take blood samples in order to test DNA for specific mutations. From there, Miller presents screening, treatment and prevention options to her patients.
"If people know they have these risks, they can take great measures with early screening, taking medicines and other preventative measures to actually stop the legacy of cancer that's tracking through their family," Miller said.
Miller called her work cancer risk assessment. She said she would begin by simply talking to her patients.
"I like to find out what got them here, what are their goals and objectives for the meeting," Miller said. "The overall goal of the genetic counseling process is to look at different aspects of cancer risk. Are there any personal factors? Are there any obvious environmental factors?"
From there, Miller presents her patients and their family members with different options, including testing. She did stress, however, that testing is a personal choice, and by no means mandatory.
According to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, cancer risk assessment involves the following steps:
- Collecting a detailed cancer-focused personal and family medical history,
- Determining whether the history is suggestive of an inherited cancer syndrome,
- Providing patient education and answering questions about cancer testing.
- Assessing a person's risk of developing cancer and reviewing medical management options, with or without genetic testing,
- Providing psychosocial support and facilitating communication between patients and their families,
- Relaying risk assessment information to the patient's physician.