Special Report: Cancer in the family, a personal story

Special Reports

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Researchers are constantly making advancements in medical technology.

There are things we know today that we had no knowledge of years ago.

The science of genetics studies what’s passed down from parents to their children.

Sometimes, that can give insight into what your future holds.

KARK 4’s Stephanie Sharp knows this all too well. This is a very personal topic for her, as she describes below:

“This is really strange for me because I’m used to telling other people’s stories to help someone else. But this is something I think can be informative to someone else.

Like so many families, my family has been hit hard by cancer.

That’s the reason I made the decision along with my doctor to test my DNA, to see what my risk is later in life. For me, it’s important to know as I plan for my own future.

Even before I was born, cancer has played a large part in my family.

My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a long, hard-fought battle for many years, she passed away at the age of 56.

Even after that, aunts, uncles, even my dad have been diagnosed with different types of cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, five to ten percent of all cancers are thought to be related to gene mutations that are inherited or passed down through your family.

My doctor suggested to me with a blood draw, researchers could look at my genetic DNA makeup.

It came back I don’t have any gene mutations in the genes they tested, but I do have a high risk of developing breast cancer over my lifetime.

“What is the long term outlook, all those sort of things,” says Brad Schaefer, the UAMS Professor of Genetics.

Schaefer isn’t my doctor but is a professor of genetics at UAMS. He says genetic testing has come far within the last few years.

“The things we can do with this information for families is number one, tell them why, and number two, we can tell them what it means for the family,” Schaefer says.

He says with this information, families can work with health professionals on early screening, detection and getting answers.

“I always think it’s important to know how those results will affect you,” says Mindy Simonson, a genetic counselor.

Simonson says the information can be powerful if you want it.

“I really want my families to understand what kind of info they are going to get and what impact it might have on them, their children, and other members of their family,” Simonson says.

In a family, every piece fits, just like a strand of DNA.

Questions being answered with a draw of blood.

Simonson stresses that genetic testing won’t answer all questions and the technology is still limited.

If you are interested in learning more about genetic DNA testing, talk to your doctor.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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