The ability to stage cancer at diagnosis by identifying high-risk patients is extremely important. It is believed that approximately 5-10% of all cancers are caused by mutations in genes associated with inherited cancer syndromes.
As patients learn more about genetic testing when taking a family history and what conditions a patient can carry and pass on to their children, they may have questions and concerns about certain cancers. that can run through their family.
In 2017, Physician Assistant Catherine Gaines and I signed up for City of Hope’s intensive six-month Cancer Risk Assessment course. This effort was to address the need for cancer risk assessment and genetic testing in our local community, allowing us to see patients in the county and avoid having them travel for this service. Since completing this course, we have been able to meet the need for genetic testing. Through this process, a new need was revealed where high-risk patients were identified and required a provider to monitor their risk and changes in family history annually. We now offer this service at the Gibson Cancer Center at UNC Health Southeastern.
Our culture is trained to think about cancer patients in 3 stages: 1. newly diagnosed, 2. in treatment and 3. survivors. But advances in genetic testing and proactive care have led to a fourth-tier perspective: cancer survivors. A cancer survivor is someone who takes steps to reduce or eliminate a genetic cancer before the cancer develops or is detected in their body. In other words, by being proactive, the patient can survive a genetic predisposition to cancer. We are also able to identify high risk patients based on family and personal history. This knowledge allows for additional individualized screening and prevention discussion with the patient.
I felt it was important to continue to seek additional training in this area of medicine as the field of genetics is changing rapidly. Cancer genetic risk assessment certification provides assurance that the healthcare professional has the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to provide cancer and genetic risk assessment services to patients and families; promote patient safety by improving the quality of providers; recognize professionals who go beyond basic knowledge in a specialty area, promote collaborative practice and referral to genetics or other qualified healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible patient outcomes and care patients and their families.
The High-Risk Genetic Screening and Testing Clinic provides cancer screening, chemoprevention, and genetic risk assessment services for those at increased risk for certain cancers.
We work with genetic counselors and providers such as gastroenterology, general surgery, surgical oncology and gynecology to provide this education, hereditary cancer risk assessment, genetic counseling and testing, individualized cancer screening and prevention programs for people concerned about their personal and family life. history of various cancers.
Windy Christy, a physician assistant at Gibson Cancer Center, recently earned the Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment certification, which was developed by an interdisciplinary team of subject matter experts through the National Consortium of Breast Centers. This certification shows patients that Christy is a professional whose skills have been third-party validated through advanced training and genetic risk assessment testing for breast cancer. To learn more about genetic risk assessment services available through the Gibson Cancer Center, call 910-671-5730.