GENETIC JOURNEYS

A Sibling Seeks Protection From Cancer

Leah Grant, 37, Beaverton, Oregon, adaptive gymnastics program manager

Leah Grant

I would highly recommend Genome Medical. I felt all the options were presented and whatever I decided to do was respected and supported.

A few years ago, one of my three older sisters, Erin, passed away from breast cancer. It was just after her 39th birthday; she had been diagnosed when she was 31. A few years after that, another sister was diagnosed just after she turned 40. That sister is still living, but it’s a very aggressive form of cancer that has spread to her brain.

After my second sister was diagnosed, I made the appointment with Genome Medical. My genetic counselor and I chatted about my medical history and then she gave me a bunch of information.

GENOME MEDICAL TREATMENT NOTES

In this situation, with a strong family history, the goal of the consultation is to better estimate this patient’s risk of developing breast cancer. My recollection is that one sister with cancer had already had genetic testing that was negative. In that situation, the utility of genetic testing in your unaffected patient is a lot lower.

The number one recommendation was for her other sister with breast cancer to consider testing. If we could find a disease-causing variant, that would give Leah more information and more of a target to test for. But I know that situation was difficult, with the recurrence of her sister’s cancer. We did offer Leah genetic testing; she didn’t pursue it at that time. If we're not able to use DNA testing to estimate the risk, we rely on computer models where you can put in the patient's personal risk factors and their family history. Leah’s lifetime risk of breast cancer was estimated to be just under 40 percent, which is quite a bit higher than the average woman’s risk, which is more like 12 or 13 percent. So the majority of the conversation was about risk assessment and management and how to be proactive. There are always two sides to conversations with patients about their risk—the medical side and the emotional side. And for her, you have to give her a lot of credit for being willing to have the conversation about her own risks. For some patients, the fear overwhelms them. We were able to document, based on our consultation, that she meets the criteria for her health insurance to pay for MRI screening every year, in addition to her annual mammogram.
Bobbi McGivern, MS, CGC
Leah’s Genome Medical genetic counselor

Bobbi was very respectful—answering all my questions and not being judgmental with what I decided. I decided not to do further testing because I already know the chances are high.

She was very encouraging that I can always change my mind and contact her for more information, which I very much appreciated. I felt all the options were presented and whatever I decided to do was respected and supported.

I had been getting regular mammograms for the most part, but I don’t think they were completely annual. Now I do regular annual exams and sometimes an ultrasound, depending on what they see. I’ll be doing regular MRIs, as well.

Because I know what my chances are, anytime I have a concern, I get it checked out, and I feel better.

I would highly recommend Genome Medical. You can talk to somebody who can explain everything that you can do, and then you can make a more educated decision. The process is really easy and it’s comforting knowing that you have options.▢

Have questions about how your genetics may impact your health?
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Who Should Get Genetic Counseling?

Anyone interested in learning how their genetics may impact their health can have genetic counseling, whether or not they have a genetic condition in their family. People may seek genetic counseling with a certified genetic counselor from Genome Medical for different reasons.

"My grandpa died of a heart condition at 53. Can genetic testing help tell me if I'm at risk too?"

"I am curious about my DNA. What can genetic testing tell me about my future health risk?"

"My partner and I are thinking about having kids. Should we consider genetic testing?"

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