Mind & Body
Genetic Testing Can Save Your Life
3/1/2019 12:00:00 AM


Just like physical attributes, cancer can seem to "run in families.” While shared lifestyle factors such as smoking or tobacco use could be the culprit, certain patterns can suggest a different issue. Genetic testing looks for specific inherited mutations in a person’s DNA which, according to the National Cancer Institute, are believed to play a role in roughly five to ten percent of all cancers. 

Until recently, genetic testing was mainly a tactic for diagnosis and treatment but as with most things, when it comes to your health, knowledge is power. This past fall, CHRISTUS Ochsner Health Southwestern Louisiana opened the James W. Gardiner Breast Center to house their new Wellness, Screening and Genetics program.

By offering newly developed tools for identifying both genetic and lifestyle cancer risk, advanced imaging technology and personalized management of cancer risk, this program enables patients to understand and address their risk at a much earlier stage in their lives. 

The center houses 3-D mammography and ultrasound units, along with the most advanced stereotactic biopsy unit. Patients can have comprehensive cancer screenings here in their hometown and receive results faster. "The whole idea is to find the detectable cancers at stage zero," says Alice Babst-Prestia MD APMC, Medical Director for the James E. Gardiner Breast Center. 

The center’s unique and comprehensive approach to genetic testing identifies a patient’s risk factors for the following eight types of cancer: breast, lung, colon, ovarian, melanoma, endometrial, prostate and pancreatic. Providers focus on hereditary and lifetime risk for the development of these cancers as well as personalized prevention. 

"It’s important to have a safety net,” says Dr. Prestia. "Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the fear sets in. Knowing the risk ahead of time and having someone to help navigate the ins and outs of cancer treatment is a valuable resource for everyone in our community.” 

The first step in the process is to answer a series of questions based on the patient’s knowledge of family history and personal health. From there, a risk factor percentage for cancer is determined. For those patients determined as "high risk” for developing cancer, a Nurse Navigator will be assigned to develop and help patients manage a personalized plan that focuses on lifestyle choices and an appropriate screening schedule. Other features of the program include tele genetic education from a licensed professional and follow up consultations with providers trained in genetics. 

As most people know, cancer is not exactly a black and white illness. Some people who develop cancer do not have a family history of it and those who have a family history may never be diagnosed with cancer. In addition to being inherited, mutations can be caused randomly or by outside influences such as pollution, smoking or sun exposure. 

"There are specific criteria for those who should have genetic testing,” says Dr. Prestia. "It’s invaluable in managing your health but it is best done under the care of a physician who can guide you through the entire process. That’s why we’re here.” 

What makes this center a true asset to Southwest Louisiana is the ability to serve patients that, oftentimes, do not receive optimum care before or during a diagnosis. The CHRISTUS Ochsner Southwestern Louisiana Foundation’s Women’s Health Council have pledged their time and funds to provide health education and financial assistance to Southwest Louisiana women and to ease the financial strain for the uninsured, underinsured or those with extremely high deductibles. 
"Before someone assumes they can’t afford the care they need, they should call us,” says Dr. Prestia.” 

For more information or to schedule an appointment call the center at 337-431-7887

Posted by: Taylor Trahan Henry | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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