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Community Members Can Learn if They Are at Risk for Hereditary Cancer

Cancer Adventist Health St. Helena is now offering genetic testing services at several of its affiliated clinics. 

St. Helena, CA – Approximately 5-10% of all cancers are inherited. Individuals with a genetic predisposition have a greater chance of developing cancer within their lifetime and at an earlier age. hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome is caused by a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Women with a gene mutation have up to an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and up to a 63% chance to developing ovarian cancer. Men with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome are also at an increased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Advancements in genetic testing throughout the last ten years can help individuals identify if they are at higher risk for breast, ovarian, colon, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate, gastric and melanoma cancer. 

So, who would qualify for a genetic test? If you have had cancer at a young age, had two or more separate cancers, or have several family members that have had cancer, you may want to think about genetic counseling and, perhaps, genetic testing. 

Identifying a hereditary predisposition to cancer allows individuals and families to personalize cancer screening, medical management and treatment options. This means patients are more aware and can take steps to increase surveillance and prevent cancer. To support patients who may have a predisposition, Adventist Health St. Helena formed a Hereditary Cancer Consortium made up of specialists in gynecology, internal medicine, gastroenterology, oncology/hematology, dermatology and breast & reconstruction surgery. Led by Dr. Candace Westgate, OB/GYN, this team has a shared goal of helping patients identify their risks of hereditary cancer syndrome and helping those who are higher risk with options that will reduce their risk or actually prevent cancer. 

Dr. Westgate is actively involved in educating the physicians and community about genetic testing and the benefits it provides families with hereditary cancer predispositions. Adventist Health plans to launch the program in all of its 260 clinics in California, Hawaii, and Oregon. “I am thrilled we have the support of the organization to launch this program. Hereditary cancer risk assessment can save lives and the lives family members. Every person is unique and so should the approach that a physician takes in managing a patient’s cancer risk. Once armed with information about a patient’s cancer risk, the provider can follow a personalized cancer screening program to detect cancer at the earliest stage and potentially reduce their risk of cancer,” says Dr. Westgate. 

Hereditary cancer testing services are available at several clinics throughout St. Helena and Hidden Valley Lake. For a complete list, go to www.adventisthealthsthelena.org/geneticscreening. Hereditary cancer testing services are covered by most insurance plans. To learn more about hereditary cancer testing services, call (707) 967-7550.