Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Genetic Testing for Cancer

May 15, 2013

If you have a family history of cancer and are wondering what your chances are for getting the disease, there's a way to find out. In this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise report, the hospital is now introducing a genetic testing program to help people find out that answer.

From breast cancer to colon cancer, if you have a family history of cancer, it could increase your risk.

Now Martha Jefferson Hospital is helping to determine your risk by offering genetic counseling.

"We would go through your family and your medical history really looking for any of those red flag indicators using computer programs and algorithms to help us figure out are you a good candidate for genetic testing," said Martha Thomas, Genetic Counselor, Martha Jefferson Hospital.

If you do need that testing, genetic counselor Martha Thomas says it's fairly easy. Everything you need is right inside of a prepackaged kit.

"You just draw a tube of blood and send it off to a lab. So, it's not complicated," said Thomas.

With the exception of breast cancer, most genetic testing kits will allow you to test and find out if you are predisposed to multiple types of cancer all at one time.

Thomas says it's important to go through genetic counseling if cancer runs in your family. She says it's also better to it early because your risk only increases as you get older.

"I think the genetic counseling portion is important to genetic testing because it really allows you to get informed about the testing that you're doing and it helps you answer some of those more complicated questions," said Thomas.

Having that knowledge can help you prepare for your future.

"Say you find out you're predisposed to breast cancer, there are lots of options that are available to you that can help reduce your risk for developing breast cancer," said Thomas.

Those options could end up saving your life.

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