Genetic testing can help patients prevent cancer diagnosis

When Mike Reardon’s sister learned she had breast cancer at the young age of 44, he wondered if his daughters were at risk.

So on a recent Wednesday, the 44-year-old Las Vegan spit in a tube and, with the help of nurse Barbara Caldwell, shipped it off to a genetic testing lab.

Reardon’s just one example of a national trend to create more cancer “previvors” — people who undergo genetic testing in hopes of beating a cancer diagnosis before it happens, instead of facing one down the road.

“All we’re doing is collecting information and educating the patient and her family on how to optimize her health,” said Caldwell, a genetic counseling nurse at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, who started seeing patients in March. “We can never get to zero (risk), but we can considerably reduce someone’s risk in most cases.”

About a decade ago, genetic testing was out of reach for most, said Anna Victorine, a genetic counselor who runs her own business, Genetic Consultations.

“Test’s could’ve cost $4,000” at the time, Victorine said.

Today, many insurance companies cover testing. At Caldwell’s office, a comprehensive gene panel might cost $250 out of pocket, she said.

Sarah Lawrence College in New York launched the first genetic counseling program in the U.S. in the fall of 1969, according to its website. It was accredited in 1997 by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and has graduated more than 1,000 genetic counselors since its start.

But in Las Vegas, genetic counselors say there are just a handful of them. The demand isn’t high for their expertise.

Caldwell says reasons are Las Vegans’ unfamiliarity with genetic testing and the absence of an academic institution pushing for it. There is no genetic counseling master’s program in the state, though she said she hopes the UNLV School of Medicine will change that.

Nationwide, however, testing is becoming trendier with the introduction of commercial services such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Caldwell said such tests are not medical grade, which can be a problem when people rely on the results to understand their genetic makeup. Victorine said, however, the tests have sparked interest in some of her clients, who then opt to undergo medical genetic testing.

For people who decide to get tested, the information could help them make decisions about their health. Caldwell points to actress Angelina Jolie as an example. She underwent a preventative double mastectomy in 2013 after genetic testing uncovered the BRCA1 gene mutation she carried. The mutation has been linked to certain cancers, including breast and ovarian.

That’s what brought Reardon to Caldwell’s office. In case the test comes back positive for a mutation in the BARD1 gene, which was detected in his sister, he can pass that information on to his 24-year-old twin daughters, who could decide to get tested and take preventative measures results are positive.

The BARD1 gene interacts with the BRCA1 gene, increasing a woman’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer risk.

Those with a family history of cancer or who receive a cancer diagnosis under age 50 should get tested, Caldwell said.

An appointment with Caldwell usually lasts about an hour and includes creating a family pedigree and discussing the implications of knowing more about your cancer risks.

That knowledge is power, Victorine said.

“It’s ‘what can I do to protect myself and protect my relatives,’ ” she said. “In an ideal world, we’d be able to reduce the incidence of cancer.”

Connect with a counselor

At least three counselors in Las Vegas specialize in cancer genetics.

Barbara Caldwell, Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, 702-952-3350

Anna Victorine, Genetic Consultations,

Jamie Fisher, Desert Perinatal Associates, 702-341-6961

Contact Jessie Bekker at or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like