Genetic testing looks at your genetic material, such as DNA and RNA, and molecules, such as proteins. Genetic testing looks for abnormalities and/or differences in the molecular material that can affect your health.
Genetic testing is used in medicine to help:
- Diagnose a disease
- Find genetic differences
- that caused your already diagnosed disease
- that increase your risk for getting a disease
- that you could pass on to your children
Ultimately genetic testing can help you and your health care provider choose the best treatments options for your disease.
When should I talk with my health care provider about genetic testing?
- have a family history of an inherited disease
- have a family history of cancer in your family
- have first degree relatives who have developed common diseases (e.g., heart disease) before the age of 50
- are a part of an ethnic group with an increased risk of certain genetic diseases (e.g., African-American men and prostate cancer)
What human body items are used to perform genetic testing?
- cheek cells
Once collected the samples are sent to a laboratory that tests for certain differences in your genetic makeup. Once reviewed, the laboratory will provide a written report of your test results to your health care provider or genetic counselor who will review their findings and what the results mean for you or your family.
Things to consider prior to getting genetic testing:
- know whether or not there are ways to prevent or treat the disease for which you are being tested
- the cost of the genetic testing and whether your health insurance will cover the cost.
- the availability of genetics professionals who can talk with you about all of the benefits and possible risks of genetic testing
If cancer is suspected, the primary care physician will typically send the patient to a medical oncologist. The medical oncologist will then do an evaluation to determine whether the patient has cancer or not. Medical oncologists treat cancer using treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and other drugs.
Radiation therapy is used in the treatment of many cancers. Radiation oncologists use different methods to kill cancer cells, including delivering high energy rays to the tumor from outside the body and implanting radioactive "seeds" directly into the tissue. Radiation can also be used to improve patients' quality of life by shrinking tumors and minimizing painful or uncomfortable symptoms.
A surgical oncologist's job is to remove tumors and surrounding tissues by surgical means. Surgical oncologists also play a crucial role in diagnosing cancer, as they are the specialists who perform biopsies by removing and examining tissue samples. A biopsy is the only way to confirm a cancer diagnosis.
Support services offered at Great Lakes Cancer Care are focused on helping cancer patients and their families reduce stress by helping them identify needs or barriers that exist in their everyday lives. Services include a care coordinator who helps patients and families with things like child care and transportation, a medical social worker who provides assistance with Medicaid access and financial assistance, and a nutritionist. A nutritional screening is completed by the nurse navigator on patients to identify any nutritional deficits. After screening a patient, if the need for a nutritionist is identified one will be assigned. The nutritionist will develop a plan to address their individual needs to improve and maintain their nutritional health.
Survivor Steps is a program that offers important physical and emotional support to individuals who have just received a cancer diagnosis, are in treatment for cancer or are in remission.
Survivor Steps offers:
- Pre-surgical education class to help navigate a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.
- Pre-habilitation needs identification. An evaluation may be completed prior to surgical treatments to better prepare you for recovery.
- Oncology rehab trained Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists who will assess, identify and plan for any rehab needs before and/or after treatment
- Access to a Clinical Nutritionist for dietary recommendations during and after cancer treatment
- Access to community resources and support
- Lymphedema Therapy-treatment by certified lymphedema therapists for swelling that can occur in one or both arms or legs most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to lymph nodes during treatment
Learn more about Survivor Steps and how it can help you cope with a cancer diagnosis.