13 FFL: How genetics affect your breast cancer risk

Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Center

Sarah Keilman MS, CGC, is a certified genetic counselor. In her role at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center, she assesses a patient's risk of cancer through genetic testing.

For more information, visit www.mercyhealthbreastcare.com. In Grand Rapids, call 616.202.2699; in Muskegon call 231.238.3548.

"With breast cancer, most people are familiar and concerned with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations," said Sarah Keilman, MS,CBC, certified genetic counselor at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. "But these are just two of the 16 genes discovered that can predispose one to developing breast cancer."

A patient with a family history of breast cancer – meaning anyone within three generations, including aunts and cousins – or has already had cancer before the age of 35, may benefit from genetic testing, said Keilman.

"If we know what their genetic risk is, we can do a more thorough screening for the patient and their family."

While the cause of cancer is largely unknown, approximately five to 10 percent of cancer is hereditary.

Keilman not only coordinates genetic testing, she can interpret results and help research available options and provide education about cancer risk management options. She advises that unless a patient has a personal or family history of cancer that they not undergo genetic testing. She also advises against direct-to-consumer genetic testing (often available online) as it doesn't look at the whole gene nor does it require a physician's supervision.

In the three years Keilman has been with Mercy Health, testing has become available for more than 15 cancer genes. And now, patients can request genetic testing panels, where more than one gene tested at a time on all types of cancer.

"The field of cancer research and genetics continues to grow. Each year we are discovering more and more about human DNA and genetics and how they play a role in cancer, and we are able to offer better testing and surveillance for people."

In the February segment of Friends For Life, Keilman can talk about genetic testing, who would be a good candidate for this type of testing, and what advancements are being made in cancer prevention as a result of genetic testing.

Courtesy: Mercy Health Comprehensive Breast Center


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