We Need to Change the Way We Talk About Hereditary Cancer

It's National Hereditary Cancer Week. It's time to speak up.

I will be brutally honest; my wife died an unbearably horrible death caused by a preventable cancer. Her untimely death happened because too many people, including health care professionals, were incapable of having a serious, mature conversation about a hereditary cancer risk with a family already devastated by several different cancers.

And my late wife is not the only person this has happened to. As an advocate, I have encountered many others whose lives have been devastated by a hereditary cancer diagnosis that could have been prevented.

Things need to change. Nobody should die of a preventable cancer. Nobody!

  Hereditary cancer is commonly stated as only 5% to 10% of all cancers. But that might not be accurate. Especially given that a Mayo Clinic genetic testing study done on nearly 3,000 cancer patients of all ages with all types of solid tumors found “1-in-8 patients had an inherited cancer-related genetic mutation.” Something isn’t adding up. But regardless of whatever numbers are quoted, there are cancers that are preventable. Even if you use the 5% to 10% statistic, that means 100,000 to 200,000 of the new cancer cases diagnosed each year could possibly be prevented.  The knowledge and the tools are available to prevent many hereditary cancers. And one of the best tools for preventing hereditary cancer is cascade genetic testing. It should be the standard of care whenever there is any family history of cancer.  It’s time to start reframing the conversation about hereditary cancer. Nobody should die of a preventable cancer. Nobody! 

For more information about hereditary cancer go to : www.markix.net/hereditary