Genetic testing is a proactive measure that can help both women and men assess their risks of certain cancers so they can make informed decisions about their health.
No screening or surgery can be a total safeguard against disease. But preventive steps such as genetic testing can reduce a person’s chance of getting cancer or increase the chance of catching it early, according to Palmetto Health-USC genetic counselor Whitney Dobek.
Donna Jumper, a Cayce resident, was moved to pursue genetic testing after her sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Genetic testing had shown Jumper’s sister had a mutation in the BRCA2 gene, which greatly increases the likelihood of a person developing breast and ovarian cancer. A year after her sister’s diagnosis, Jumper underwent the same testing at Palmetto Health-USC Genetic Counseling and learned she had the same mutation.
Jumper wasn’t willing to simply wait and hope for the best. To lessen her odds of developing cancer, Jumper had a complete hysterectomy and began having alternating mammograms and breast MRIs every six months.
Twelve years later, Jumper remains cancer free, and her weekly routine is much less dominated by doctors’ appointments than by outings with her two granddaughters.
“I’m only 56, so I don’t want to worry about or constantly wonder what’s going to happen,” said Jumper, who lost her sister in 2016 and had a double mastectomy in the fall of 2018 to further reduce her risk of developing breast cancer.
Genetic testing is conducted through blood or saliva testing, and results are generally available in two to three weeks.
Although such testing is commonly associated with women, men also can benefit from the early detection of prostate cancer or (in rare cases) breast cancer.
“One of the biggest benefits of what we’re doing is giving people the opportunity to take control of their health care,” Dobek said.
Genetic testing may be recommended by an OB/GYN or family medicine physician. But in some cases, patients seek the testing on their own.
“Maybe they have heard about it and know that their family history is significant,” Dobek said.
Armed with the information revealed by genetic testing, you can take proactive steps like Jumper did, make more informed decisions when there is a diagnosis, alert family members of their need to be tested or simply gain peace of mind when no gene mutation is detected.
“I do not regret any of the steps I have taken at all,” Jumper said. “Knowledge is powerful, and how you use it to your advantage can make a big difference in your outcomes.”
Palmetto Health-USC Genetic Counseling works closely with Palmetto Health-USC Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and other physicians throughout the Midlands and South Carolina to provide comprehensive prenatal genetic services and outpatient care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 803-545-5775.
Click here to read more about whether you should consider genetic counseling.