A now-popular gift is genetic testing that determines your ethnic makeup, and some tests are even able to pinpoint the area of the country your family originated in centuries ago. Many are surprised when their test results differ from family lore, and long-lost family members have also been known to reconnect.
With advances in genetic testing, another valuable, potentially lifesaving result is that you can learn what the likelihood is that you’ll be diagnosed with certain cancers that tend to run in families. Genetic testing also provides important information about your unborn baby’s health if you’re pregnant.
Dr. Pamela Kimbrough and the Life’s Cycle Women’s Care team have enthusiastically embraced a genetic testing platform that can reveal critical health information so you and your doctor can make the best and most informed decisions about your current and future health. We can assist you at one of our offices in Ardmore and Norman, Oklahoma.
The important work of genes
Most people know that your genes are composed of DNA and determine the factors that make you uniquely you. They cause your body to produce proteins that control biological processes and do everything from determining whether your eyes are blue or brown to your susceptibility to serious diseases like heart disease and cancer.
The rise of knowledge around genes and health
As the science of genetics has advanced, we’ve learned that, through testing, we can discover our risk for certain types of cancer and even take steps to prevent them.
Genetic testing allows us to:
- Learn the likelihood that we will develop a disease
- Diagnose a disease in some instances
- Deduce the cause of a disease
- Preemptively consider treatment options for a disease
- Learn our risk of passing a condition to our offspring
- Screen an unborn baby for certain diseases
For example, if a woman learns she carries one of the BRCA genes (genes that are responsible for some breast cancers) from a genetic test, she might decide to get a preventive mastectomy to eliminate the high likelihood that she’ll be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.
Likewise, certain genetic tests can tell a pregnant woman if her unborn baby is affected by a congenital heart defect. With this knowledge, doctors can be prepared to correct it after birth. And even though certain genetic conditions like Down syndrome are not generally inherited, tests like amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling, done in later pregnancy, can indicate whether a baby is affected with the condition.
The more information you and your doctor have about your genetic makeup and family medical history, the more you can work together to make sound decisions about your health, or to take the best care of yourself and your baby if you’re pregnant.
Making the decision to pursue genetic testing
Because Dr. Kimbrough works in partnership with you, she would never recommend something as impactful as genetic testing before having a detailed discussion about it. Together, you discuss your family’s health history and if you’re planning on becoming pregnant or are already pregnant. These are important determinants in deciding whether to pursue genetic testing.
If Dr. Kimbrough believes you would benefit from genetic testing, you’re advised to take a very brief, completely HIPAA-compliant and confidential questionnaire that records information about your and your family’s history with cancer called myGeneHistory™ . Life’s Cycle Women’s Care has teamed up with Myriad Genetic Laboratories to offer it.
When your cancer risk profile is compared with national data, it helps Dr. Kimbrough determine whether you qualify for genetic cancer testing. If you do, we offer Myriad’s myRIskⓇ test, which examines 35 genes that are known to be associated with hereditary cancer risk. It gives you information on your risk for developing:
- Breast cancer (lifetime and 5-year risk)
- Pancreatic cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Gastric cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Endometrial cancer
The test is performed by taking a sample of your saliva. Another benefit of the platform is that testing costs aren’t a worry if you’re insured, as most insurances fully cover this type of testing.
Results from the test reveal whether mutations put you at a higher risk for developing certain cancers.
Possibly the most important step is going over the results with Dr. Kimbrough, who can help you interpret them and review your choices based on the information. These tests don’t provide 100% certainty of your chances of developing a disease, nor are they diagnostic, but they aid you and your doctor in making decisions as you weigh your current health and risks while thinking about your future health.
Armed with this information, you and Dr. Kimbrough can decide if you’d like to take a proactive approach to warding off disease with preventive strategies.