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Should You Undergo Genetic Testing?

Should You Undergo Genetic Testing?

If you have a family history of certain cancers, you may be eligible for genetic counseling and testing that could provide critical information about your own cancer risk and that of your family members. Those who test positive for an inherited gene mutation can undergo earlier and more frequent cancer screenings as well as take preventive measures to protect themselves before cancer has a chance to develop or spread. Next month, a hematologist- oncologist will give a free community presentation on this important topic.

Bogdan Eftimie, MD, medical director of the UCSF-Washington Cancer Center will present a live online seminar called, “Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer Risk,” on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 3 p.m. To watch it on Facebook, sign in to your account and go to Or you can watch it without an account at If you cannot watch it live, the seminar will be available on YouTube the following day.

Dr. Eftimie treats and manages all types of tumors and blood cancers. Through its affiliation with UCSF Health, Washington Hospital Healthcare System (WHHS) is able to provide access to specialists like Dr. Eftimie and his UCSF colleagues; advanced technology; the latest treatments; and important services like clinical trials and genetic testing usually only offered at large academic medical institutions.

“Having the Washington Genetic Cancer Program in-house is one of the many things that makes our breast cancer program so well rounded, especially for a community hospital,” said Christine Mikkelsen, RN, RN-BC, breast cancer nurse navigator and clinical coordinator of the WHHS Women’s Center. “In addition to breast cancer, we provide genetic testing for more than 100 genetic mutations.”

BRCA stands for “BReast CAncer.” Everyone has BRCA genes, which prevent uncontrolled cell growth and abnormal cells from turning into cancer. But sometimes a mutation, or change in one of the genes, prevents it from working properly. It is estimated that about one in every 500 women in the United States has a BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene mutation that puts them at a 45-85% higher risk of developing breast cancer by age 70, as well as other cancers. Men can also test positive for BRCA gene mutations, which indicates a higher risk for prostate, pancreatic and breast cancers.

Genetic testing involves a two-step process. First is a telehealth visit with a genetic counselor to provide education on genetic testing and discuss personal and family health history. This helps establish what genetic mutations a person is at risk for and what tests to run. Next, the patient goes in for a blood draw or submits a sample of their saliva via a postage-paid test tube kit. Once the results are in, another appointment is scheduled to review the findings and discuss any necessary cancer screening or prevention, implications for the patient and family, and referrals or resources.

“Knowledge is power when it comes to cancer, so the information Dr. Eftimie will present is important for everyone,” advised Mikkelsen. “Watch his presentation to learn more about genetic testing, and if you qualify, get tested because it could save your life or that of your loved one.”

Speak to your primary care physician to determine if you might qualify for a referral to the Cancer Genetics Program at the UCSF-Washington Cancer Center.

For more information about Dr. Eftimie’s presentation or other health-related topics, visit For information on the UCSF – Washington Cancer Center, visit