Views and things on my mind

The article was called “Cancer Runs in Families. Too Few Are Getting Tested.”

by Brianna Abbott:

Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider knew what her father’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis meant for his future. She didn’t realize what it meant for her own cancer risk. 

Steven Ungerleider’s doctors ordered genetic testing in 2022 to see if his cancer might respond to a new treatment. They found he had a mutation in the BRCA2 gene, which raises risks for cancers including pancreatic, breast and ovarian—and can be passed from parents to children

Ungerleider and her sister got tested and discovered they had the same mutation

“I had no idea that this was possible for me,” said Ungerleider, 43, an internal medicine doctor and founder of End Well, a nonprofit focused on end-of-life care. 

Doctors are recommending genetic tests to more cancer patients and their families. Testing costs have droppedand the results are helping doctors choose newer targeted drugs and encourage relatives to confront their own cancer risk. 

“We can test you for dozens of genes at the same time, and it’s going to influence your treatment,” said Dr. Jewel Samadder, co-leader of the Office of Precision Medicine at the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Phoenix.

Here’s more from the article:

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What are your thoughts about cancer running in families? Would you get tested if your parents or siblings had cancer? Would you recommend friends to have testing done?

38 thoughts on “Views and things on my mind

  1. First…good morning, sweet Olive. She’s such a pretty girl and I can’t imagine how much she missed you. Second…thanks for the great info and reminders about genetic predispositions and the fact that testing has become more affordable. You’re giving me things to think about…and I appreciate all of that. Friday hugs to you…and Olive and I hope Buff is continuing to recuperate well. xo! 💕

  2. I’ve known for a long time about the BRCA mutations and the likelihood that it would show up in family members. I wasn’t aware that it was associated with a larger variety of cancers beyond female reproductive specific ones. Sadly EA, I suspect with how our health systems are managed, with the significant amount of people who do not or cannot afford healthcare and insurance to begin with and the very specific levels of coverage for those on Medicaid type government plans even $250 would be too much cost and hinder testing for a large part of the population- the ones who need the testing most actually.

    I have often wondered if my cervical cancer may have had a connection to my mom. I am 95% certain that a contributing factor in her death- beyond severe alcoholism, was uterine cancer. My diagnosis was never given an origin and ruled out as HPV which I suspected. Testing wasn’t even thought of then. If I was younger now there would definitely be a lot to consider and a lot of discussions about the use of testing.

    In happier news- I laughed seeing Olive in your suitcase. She is incredibly blunt with her feelings about travel! I think if she had the capabilities she would toss that thing onto the street for the garbage truck to pick up 😉

    • I’m sure Olive would get rid of my suitcase once and for all if she could. I do think the $250 could be a barrier for many to get tested. Also, in my future DIL case, her doctors never tested her for years because of her age. Even recently insurance didn’t cover a colonoscopy. Her cancer may have started a decade ago.

      • Wow! That speaks clearly to how much timing plays into some outcomes and also to just how much medicine is still in the dark about disease processes. It’s only been within the last year maybe that I’ve started to hear about the rise in colon cancer and other major illnesses impacting younger people. I hope that medical schools are going to reevaluate how and what they teach in their curriculum to reflect decisions that need to be implemented well before the limits we’ve always known.

      • I do agree medicine is in the dark when it comes to disease and age. I would hope insurance would reevaluate what they cover regardless of age, too.

  3. For those interested, there is a test called the Grail Galleri and it’s a cancer screen lab test that can catch the prodrome stages of 50+ types of cancer. Several years ago it was $175 and open to anyone, but was bought out and now is around $1,000 (ugh), private pay only, and you must either be over 40 or have a personal/family history of cancer. My boyfriend has a high incidence of lung cancer in his family, so we’ve budgeted to test every 1-2 years. It’s worth it to us for the peace of mind. When I’m eligible at 40, I plan to do the same. I’d rather know and treat early than stick my head in the sand and miss my opportunity to nip it in the bud.

    Also, that final picture is a roadrunner! The gila woodpecker will have black and white speckled wings and a red crown and be about a third of the size of the roadrunner. Roadrunners are relatively rare, so you’re lucky! We’ve have a male and female in our neighborhood for the past few years, but they’re the only two I’ve ever seen in the wild in my 35 years here. 😊

    • Yikes! I meant to say roadrunner. I fixed it. We have the gila woodpeckers in the yard and always had roadrunners in Palm Springs. They are more rare here. Thanks for the info on the cancer test. My future DIL had a bad pathology report. Unfortunately because she’s in her 30s, there was never a referral for her for a colonoscopy or any checks for cancer. It could have been caught years ago. The insurance didn’t cover the colonoscopy this time, either.

      • It’s really unfortunate that the most valuable tools for our health never seem to be covered by insurance. It sounds nefarious, but I personally think it’s because treating cancer is more profitable than catching it early… which is just awful and so cruel for those suffering. I’ll keep your DIL in my prayer–hopefully she remains healthy and cancer-free.

      • That really does sound evil but not impossible. She got a worse diagnosis yesterday from pathology than we expected and we are trying to come to grips with it. She’ll have six months of chemo and hopefully that will be it.

      • Oh EA, so very sorry that the news isn’t as bright as you initially believed. Hoping for better news after the chemo.

      • Oh, E.A., I’m so sorry the pathology was not good. As Deb mentioned, hoping and praying things get better for Buff and the family.

  4. As a med student, I’ve known this for many years. Some genetic mutations are very aggressive at causing cancer. Getting tested if anyone has family history is a very good idea.

  5. I love that you gently led us in to the topic with a picture of Olivia and then your beautiful pictures to end. You’ve sandwiched the reality check that we can be proactive with our health like an oreo. Thank you, Elizabeth!! <3 <3 <3

  6. I have a friend who through an initial discovery of breast cancer, found that she had a gene that also gave her a high probability of a rare stomach cancer. Many surgeries later, she is doing well. Her kids also were tested and found the same gene. I think one opted for prophylactic stomach surgery. Not sure how the other will decide.

    I have another friend who had late-stage colon cancer. Eight or more years later, she is doing great. Modern medicine is amazing.

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