Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

October 16, 2013

Genetic counseling can save lives


Hendricks County Flyer

— BROWNSBURG— “Had I not went to genetic counseling and gotten tested, I would have died,” says breast cancer survivor Jenny Reynolds.

Reynolds said she went to get her yearly mammogram and doctors discovered a lump.

Following a lumpectomy, her doctors found breast cancer. She then had a mastectomy. She then went to her OB/GYN and through genetic testing, doctors found an early stage of ovarian cancer on her fallopian tubes.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in December, had a mastectomy in May, and by July had the hysterectomy to remove the stage zero of ovarian cancer.

“There have been 15 cases where doctors have found stage zero on fallopian tubes for ovarian cancer,” Reynolds said. “If someone has stage one or two, they have a 62 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer, and there is no cure for it.”

Reynolds’ mother had died from peritoneal cancer eight years prior. Peritoneal cancer is rare and it develops a thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen. It also covers the uterus, bladder, and rectum. The family did not know enough about genetic testing to help stop the cancer early enough.

Dawn McIlvried, MS, CGC, LGC, genetic counselor at St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Care, said heredity cancer is not common.

“There is only a 5 to 10 percent chance,” she said. “However, if there are multiple family members with breast cancer or someone younger than you would expect, or someone who has more than one cancer, then all family members should get tested.”

Since Reynolds went through genetic counseling, now the rest of her family can go and get tested to see if they have a gene that she has.

Devin Jones is Reynolds’ niece, and she said she plans to get tested soon.

“If I find out that I don’t have the trait, my kids won’t get it either,” she said. “You don’t realize the things you can learn with genetic counseling. You can do different preventative levels to catching cancer early.”

She said she believes research has come so far, and so much has gone in a positive direction.

“This can help people,” she said. “Testing is not painful or scary. It’s a blood test. It can help you use preventative measures.”

Genetic counseling tests for four types of cancer: ovarian, breast, prostate and pancreatic. It is not for everyone or for every type of cancer, but McIlvried says it is potentially life-saving.

“Jenny Reynolds is the perfect example of someone who got surgery and caught the cancer early,” she said. “The goal was to save her life.”

McIlvried says there are many factors that can make someone more susceptible to getting the certain trait, and genetic counseling helps look at family history and see what they can do from there.

“We can tell you why you are at certain risks and then increase surveillance and use preventative surgery to catch cancer at an early stage,” she said.

Reynolds said she knows she was lucky and her niece admires her courage.

“She has the best attitude about all of this,” Jones said. “She was incredibly lucky and is doing great.”

For more information about genetic counseling, visit the national website for genetic counseling at www.nsgc.org.