Before the test, a patient can visit a genetic counselor from Fred Hutch or another health care provider to better understand the test and their risk. After the test results come back from the lab, usually several weeks later, there is a second consultation to discuss the results and any changes in medical management.
For some people, the next steps may mean making a lifestyle change, such as reducing their alcohol intake, says Vida Henderson, PhD, PharmD, a public health researcher at Fred Hutch who is currently working on a project designed to reduce barriers to genetic testing for Black women. . For others, it may include regular screening tests or getting them done at an earlier age, such as mammograms or colonoscopies. In this way, a problem can be detected at the earliest stage, when it can be easily handled.
Sharing difficult information
If you learn THERE inherited a gene variant that puts you at a higher risk of cancer, it is important to share this information with your family because you share some of your genes with them.
To help you approach this topic, your doctor or genetic counselor can give you a letter to share with family that provides information to help them understand the genetic variant you have, explains that they too may be at risk, and encourage them to find out. more so, so they can decide if they want to be tested too.
It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but if you get through it, someone will benefit the next time, Dubard-Gault said.
In his clinical practice, Cheng observes that sometimes people worry that sharing this information may burden their family.
When discussing these topics, it’s helpful to share what you know about your own diagnosis, and how that information can help your medical team learn more about how to tailor your care, said Cheng. There are also actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of cancer.
New research in 2024
In 2024, Henderson will build on work already in progress related to an educational video project aimed at increasing genetic counseling and testing among Black women. This next phase will include the development of a point-of-care genetic testing program.
We want a woman to be able to come to a community event or clinic, watch our video, then get tested right then and there, she said. As of now, most women who would benefit do not understand or seek genetic counseling or preventive screening, so hopefully this will help change that. This is very important because black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnicity. Early identification and risk reduction strategies are essential.
Cheng will continue to expand his work in prostate cancer in the new year, especially in men with advanced prostate cancer, through the Prostate Cancer Registry of Outcomes and Germline Mutations for Improved Survival and Treatment Effectiveness (PROMISE) program, where he is the principal investigator. . Approximately one in 10 men with advanced prostate cancer is found to carry an inherited genetic mutation, but with germline testing, available for free through the PROMISE registry, these patients may have more focused treatment options and options to consider for clinical trials.
Dubard-Gault has seen artificial intelligence, or AI, begin to be incorporated into her research, most recently in an initiative related to the accessibility of genetic testing educational materials. He is also excited about the potential of AI data processing, which will ultimately result in more patients being identified faster and treated better.
Moving into the new year, he said his goal is to continue building on the work that has been done to reduce health care disparities so that all patients who need hereditary testing have access to it.
Just having the ability to test isn’t impactful, he said. We need to do something with the information, so I look forward to expanding this work.
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