Emu Health’s multispecialty center in Glendale, Queens provides a wide range of primary and special care services to its patients.
Genetic screening is a complex process where a person’s DNA is analyzed for mutations that occur as the body grows and repairs itself. Dr. Darren Sachs, is the Director of Breast Surgery at EMU Health, a board-certified general surgeon, and an expert on the nuances of genetic screening.
“Genetic testing allows us to know in advance if you are at a higher risk of developing cancer,” said Dr. Sachs. “if somebody thinks they might potentially have breast cancer, the genetic screening is really the preliminary thing that’s done in order to determine.”
Testing can be done on samples of blood, saliva or from a swab of the inside of a cheek. It is a similar collection method compared to those used for genealogy services like 23andMe and other ancestry websites.
One of the first things that’s done at EMU Health when a patient comes in thinking they might have cancer is the intake of patient family history as well as past medical history to identify possible cancer risk. Dr. Sachs said, “if you were really young, and you have very aggressive breast cancer, we’d be afraid that you had a genetic mutation that caused you to have this breast cancer at an early age.”
Genetic testing looks for specific mutation markers, one such example is for a patient with a family history with breast cancer. For example, if someone is being tested because they have a family member with a known BRCA mutation, testing might focus only on looking for that specific mutation. In people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, testing might focus on the specific BRCA mutations that are most common in this group of people
“Unfortunately, a lot of patients think when you ask them about their family history of cancer, they’ll only say, ‘Oh, my mom’s side,’ they always forget that half their genes come from their dad’s side.”
One of the unique aspects of Emu Health’s genetic screening services is that their tests can look for a multitude of mutations at an exam should there be a need, not just one focus such as, ones associated with breast cancer.
There’s multiple different types of genetic testing, you either can have the simplest form for just breast, which is BRCA,” Dr. Sachs said. “But we can test all the way up to 80 plus genes, including pancreatic colon.”
Testing does not always give you clear answers, but genetic counselors are trained to interpret and explain the test results and what they might mean to you and your family. But it’s important to understand that genetic test results can’t always guarantee you’re not at increased risk.
“I explain genetic testing like a crystal ball,” said Dr. Sachs, referencing some people’s apprehension towards genetic testing because of what it can potentially uncover. “It can open your eyes to something that could happen to in the future, which can be intimidating, yet is information that is priceless.”
To find out more information about Genetic Cancer Testing, you can contact EMU Health, located at 83-40 Woodhaven Blvd. by calling 718.850.4368.