Komen New Jersey Digital Series: Genetic Testing — Is it Right for Me?

As part of Komen New Jersey’s ongoing Digital Series, we recently spoke with Dr. Sharyn Lewin, a national expert in genetic testing for cancer patients with Myriad Women’s Health. She shared why genetic testing is important, how to learn and understand if you are a candidate, when to speak to your doctor and what questions to ask.

Click above for the full interview, and view a brief recap below.

Dr. Lewin brings more than 20 years of medical, research and community outreach experience to her role as Executive Director of The Lewin Fund to Fight Women’s Cancers. She serves as Medical Director of the New Jersey-based Holy Name Medical Center’s Gynecologic Oncology Division and is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She is a national authority on hereditary genetics. With over 100 publications and extensive educational involvement in the importance of genetic testing, Dr. Lewin has lectured to advocacy groups, patients, providers and physician organizations on both a national and local level. She is passionate about eradicating hereditary cancers and improving the quality of life for those affected by cancer.

Komen NJ: Why should I talk to my doctor about genetic testing? What could I learn that would be helpful to me and my family?

Dr. Lewin: “Knowledge is power. I really try to empower my patients to… understand your risk of cancer and then take action. The fundamental way to do that is to know your family history and then undergo genetic testing.” She shared several lists of the aspects of personal and family history that are most important for the decision to get tested.

Komen NJ: On the other hand, what are the possible downsides?

Dr. Lewin: “There really is no downside to getting tested. There are congressional laws in place to protect patients from any genetic discrimination, so you can definitely not lose your health insurance.”

Komen NJ: I’ve seen commercials for home genetic testing kits, why is it important to see my doctor for genetic testing?

Dr. Lewin: “New data shows that about 1 in 4 women who present for their routine gynecologic visit now meets the criteria for testing.” Time to know your risk, talk to your doctor, and take control of your health!

During the interview, Dr. Lewin shared information on Myriad which features a website, MyGeneHistory, that offers a simple questionnaire detailing personal and family cancer histories. Answers are then compared with national guidelines for hereditary cancer to identify genetic testing candidacy. If qualifications for hereditary cancer testing are met, the candidate is connected with a healthcare provider for further discussion.

Other companies that offer genetic testing kits online include Ambry Genetics: www.ambrygen.com, Fulgent Genetics: www.fulgentgenetics.com and Integrated Genetics: www.integratedgenetics.com.

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