Local McGrath Breast Care Nurse Dianne Green and The Pink Dishes Cancer Support group have invited Gillian Shannon, Bathurst Community Health Centre Genetic Counsellor, to speak on the topic of genetics and cancer as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photo: Barbara Reeves People interested in learning more about genetics and cancer are invited to a talk at Parkes Health Service Education Centre next Thursday (October 9).
Local McGrath Breast Care Nurse Dianne Green and The Pink Dishes Cancer Support group have invited Gillian Shannon, Bathurst Community Health Centre Genetic Counsellor, to speak on the topic of genetics and cancer as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“In my work with families, the most frequently asked question is often whether a family history of cancer puts them at risk and what can they do about it,” Gillian said.
“To answer that question we need to think about cancer and what makes one families history significant and another’s not”.
Many people have someone in their family who had or has cancer, but it’s important to know that only a small percentage (up to 5%) of certain types of cancer is due to an inherited faulty gene.
Cancer can occur in more than one family member for different reasons, including:
* Just by chance (mostly the cause)
* Shared environment and lifestyle influences (eg too much sun or smoking)
* Having an inherited faulty gene in the family causing an increased risk of cancer (uncommon).
The clues that cancers in your family maybe due to an inherited faulty gene include:
* The number of close blood relatives who have developed cancer- particularly breast and ovarian, or bowel cancer;
* The age at which the cancers developed;
* The pattern of cancer in the family;
* The number of different cancers, particularly if there is more than one primary cancer in the one family member and especially if the cancer occurred at an early age.
“These pieces of information are clues as to whether the cancer in your family has occurred by chance or is due to a faulty gene in the family,” Gillian said.
“The more clues on one side of the family, the more likely it is that there is an inherited faulty gene.
“It is important to note that we assess each side of the family separately. As the genetic counsellor, I work with you to assess this family history”.
The process of assessing a family history can take time and often the news is good or reassuring, in that the risk is not high and genetic testing is not needed.
If this is the case the discussion will be about screening recommendations to help manage the risk of the cancers seen in the family.
For some rare families, where genetic testing is needed, the pros and cons associated with genetic testing can be explored.
“So if your family history shows a number of the same type of, or similar, cancers on one side of the family, with individuals having that type of cancer at a young age or more than one type of cancer you may wish to pursue referral to the familial cancer service,” Gillian said.
To find out more about genetics and cancer, people are encouraged to attend the information session next Thursday, October 9 at 2pm, at the Parkes Health Service Education Centre (red brick building on the corner Coleman Road and Rose streets).
An afternoon tea will be provided after the presentation. Please RSVP to Parkes Community Health Centre on 6861 2500 if you wish to attend.
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