ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As families gather in-person and virtually this Thanksgiving there is a potentially life-saving conversation they should have.
Kathy Steele, a Nurse Educator at Myriad Genetics, explained what the discussion is about and the important action step that goes with it Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.
“I would love families to get together and fill out a very simple questionnaire and ask each other about family members who have had cancer,” said Steele. “It’s very important to know your family’s cancer history.”
Steele knows from experience the significance of being proactive. “I can tell you from personal experience how important this is. My mother passed away from cancer. I’m a cancer survivor times two, as is my brother and my sister. I was so motivated by my family cancer history that I actually joined Myriad Genetics, one of the companies that helped discover hereditary cancer genes 30 years ago.”
Steele explained that the family history questionnaire is designed to be a tool to help you gather and document your family history. It’s going to ask questions like – back three generations what types of cancers were in your family, what ages were they diagnosed, and what type?
“There’s a printable version for you to go ahead and fill it out,” Steele said. “You can go to Rochester Clinical Research. They have an electronic version that if you go on and answer the questions you’ll know immediately what your cancer risk is. You’ll be connected to a genetic counselor and we partnered with Rochester Clinical Research so that they can arrange to have a test kit sent directly to your house. You know here with COVID, you really don’t want to go out into the labs to get your specimens done. It’s very simple. You can spit in a tube and send off the test kit in the Federal Express envelope and it will be diagnosed and your results will come to you and Rochester Clinical Research will walk you through that.”
Steele noted that if you’re diagnosed with a mutation, you are 50 percent likely to pass that mutation on to your children.
“Rochester Clinical Research will make sure your physician has a copy of that as well so that they know going forward what types of lifestyle changes would be good for you. If you’re at a higher risk, you can have additional screenings in different modalities. You can opt to have some preventative surgeries if you choose and preventative medications. It’s all about taking that risk level and making sure that appropriately going forward that you are caring for yourself in the correct way.”