What is the role of genetic testing in cancer prevention and treatment?

You’ve probably heard before that DNA is the blueprint for what makes you “you.” Your genes dictate your eye color, hair color and blood type. You can also inherit certain genetic diseases , such as sickle cell disease. And some genetic mutations may predispose you to cancer. Watch this featured video to hear a member of the Cancer Care team at West Hills Hospital explain familial cancer syndrome. It refers to the increased likelihood that multiple members of a family will be affected by one cancer or a group of cancers.

How you can use your genetic testing results
The oncology hematologist in the featured video emphasizes that genetic testing only reveals part of the picture. Having a genetic mutation doesn’t automatically mean that someone will get a certain type of cancer. Similarly, not having the genetic mutation doesn’t mean that a person won’t develop cancer.

Genetic testing can be useful because you can use it to influence your lifestyle choices. Your doctor will help you understand your test results. He or she can discuss the changes you can make in your everyday life to lower your risk of cancer .

How you can reduce your risk of cancer
Making lifestyle changes isn’t a foolproof way to definitively prevent cancer, but they certainly can help reduce the risk. Depending on your current health status and lifestyle, and the results of your genetic testing, your doctor might recommend:

  • Eating a low-fat, low-sugar and high-fiber diet
  • Starting an exercise routine
  • Eliminating alcohol consumption
  • Being careful to avoid secondhand smoke
  • Losing weight
  • Getting frequent health screenings

How genetic testing informs cancer treatment
In recent years, scientists have discovered that the genetic makeup of individual tumors can be used to refine any given patient’s cancer care. Cancer cells have DNA, too, and this DNA is subject to various mutations. By analyzing the mutations of a tumor in a particular patient, an oncologist can recommend therapies that precisely target that exact tumor type.

For example, genetic testing of the tumor may reveal that a cancer is associated with tyrosine kinase. This is an enzyme that supports cell growth. By prescribing drugs that inhibit tyrosine kinase, the oncologist can directly target the tumor more effectively.

Cancer is a frightening diagnosis. At West Hills Hospital, our Cancer Care team will be by your side every step of the way to fight it with you. Call our nurse referral line in West Hills at (818) 676-4321.

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