From Special Reports

A simple test available at Piedmont Newnan Hospital is helping people learn in as little as one or two weeks whether they are at increased risk for cancer.

“More and more, we’re seeing people come in for genetic counseling who don’t have cancer but are aware of their family’s history and are concerned about it,” Kelly Teed, board-certified genetic counselor at Piedmont, said. “Genetic testing can give patients the answers they seek as they take charge of their health.”

Teed, who has worked at Piedmont for two years, says the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes made famous by Angelina Jolie’s op-ed in the New York Times in 2013 aren’t the only genes linked to cancer that people need to know about.

“People who have a mutation in the PALB2 gene, for example, have almost as high of a risk for breast cancer than those who test positive for one of the BRCA genes,” Teed said. “There are nearly 20 genes linked to breast cancer, 10 linked to colon cancer and still dozens of others that increase one’s risk for cancer.”

Other genes with links to cancer include:
• PTEN: PTEN gene mutations cause Cowden syndrome. Cowden syndrome is associated with an increased risk for benign and cancerous tumors of the breast, uterus, thyroid, kidney and colon.

• STK11: Mutations in the STK11 gene cause Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS). Individuals with PJS tend to develop spots in their lips or in their mouth and unusual types of polyps in the stomach, small intestine, and colon. PJS is also associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other cancers.

• CDH1: CDH1 gene mutations cause Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC). Individuals with HDGC have a high risk for developing a specific type of stomach cancer at a young age. HDGC also is associated with an increased risk for lobular breast cancer and possibly colon cancer.

“It is important to know that even if someone has a gene mutation, that does not mean you will develop cancer,” Teed cautioned. “Additionally, if the predictive gene tests indicate that a patient does not have a gene mutation, it does not mean they will never develop cancer. Genetic predisposition is just one of the many factors we look at when determining a patient’s overall risk of developing cancer.”

Those interested in genetic testing should consult with their physician about a referral to a genetic counselor. For more information, visit piedmont.org/cancer.