GENEbraska Human Genomic Medicine
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"Integrating genomic medicine into Nebraska healthcare"

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Hereditary Cancer

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"and when he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of Heaven so fine that all the World will be in love with night, And pay no worship to the garish sun" William Shakespeare

Everyone has some chance of developing cancer. Most cancer cases occur sporadically or by chance. However, some people may develop cancer due to alterations in hereditary factors called genes. Cancer is a genomic disorder. Alterations found in cancer at the DNA level include mutations, methylation of promoter genes, or translocations. Hereditary cancer is the development of cancer due to an inherited gene mutation (changes in a specific gene) that has been passed from a parent to a child upon conception. If a person has inherited such a gene mutation, he or she has inherited an increased risk to develop cancer in their lifetime which is higher than the cancer risk of someone in the general population. An example in females is Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC). Women with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) have a much higher chance of developing colon cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, and ovarian cancer than the general population. Other types of cancer have also been associated with HNPCC. In a woman with HNPCC, the lifetime risk of endometrial cancer is 40-60%, the lifetime risk of colon cancer is 60-80%, and the lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 10-15%. Most HNPCC is caused by mutations in genes called MLH1 and MSH2.

Over the past decade, scientists have discovered specific genes that can contribute to the development of hereditary breast, ovarian, colorectal, and other less common cancers. Genetic testing is now available for some of these types of hereditary cancers. People who are interested in learning whether or not they have an increased likelihood of developing certain cancers or whether they inherited a gene which contributed to their own or a family member's cancer should consult with a specialist in the area of hereditary cancer, cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling and testing. Our goal is to help you learn about your personal cancer risk and become more involved in your personal healthcare management. We believe it is very important for us to help you learn how to reduce your personal risk of developing cancer by modifying your lifestyle as well as help you develop and implement a high quality personalized cancer screening, evaluation and treatment plan.

Genetic Counseling
Genetic counseling involves a discussion of your personal and/or family history of cancer. Genetic counselors will present complex scientific concepts in terms you can understand. The goal of cancer genetic counseling is to provide clear and clinically relevant information about genetic risk factors in an atmosphere of support and education. Genetic counseling is typically recommended for individuals or families with multiple cases of cancer diagnosed at unusually young ages.

Genetic Testing
Genetic testing involves the use of laboratory methods to obtain a more precise estimate of your cancer risk. Although a cancer risk assessment can be provided without genetic testing, in some cases testing may help you and your physician make important decisions about your medical care. Deciding whether or not to have genetic testing is a personal choice that can be made at the time of the counseling session or at a future date. Genetic counseling does not require genetic testing. Genetic testing may not be useful for everyone receiving genetic counseling.

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Byron L. Barksdale, M.D.
500 West Leota Street Suite 200
North Platte, Nebraska 69101

Phone: 308-532-4700
FAX: 308-534-0534

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