More patients seeking genetic counseling to prevent cancer

More patients seeking genetic counseling to prevent cancer

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by Karen Zatkulak

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KTVB.COM

Posted on October 20, 2013 at 9:17 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 20 at 9:18 PM

BOISE -- A different type of cancer testing is gaining popularity in the Treasure Valley.

It's called genetic counseling.

The preventative measure gained widespread recognition earlier this year when actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy after learning that she carried a gene mutation linked to breast cancer.

Now, doctors are seeing more patients asking about the genetic testing and whether it's right for them.

"It was really hard," said Sarah Syndergaard. "I never anticipated those results to come back positive."

Syndergaard is just 30 years old and was shocked this summer when she learned she had breast cancer.

After her diagnosis, she decided to meet with Heath Hussey, a genetic counselor at St. Luke's.

As Syndergaard started treatment for her current cancer, she was able to learn more about where it came from.

"It was a little overwhelming at first because you can find there are a lot of different genes that can go haywire," said Syndergaard.

The discussion about her family's history, led to blood tests, that showed she was positive for a gene that would increase her risk for ovarian cancer as well.

That knowledge not only helped Syndergaard deal with her diagnosis, but help beat her cancer.

"For me it changed the course of how I would get treated, we decided to go more aggressive for surgery, and with the chemo I'm doing."

It's a process that Heather Hussey, a genetic counselor, says can save lives.

"Numerous times, probably countless times this has caught cancer," said Hussey.

She says the phones in their office have been ringing a lot more since May, when Jolie announced she had gone through genetic counseling.

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