WILMINGTON, NC – In 2016, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be over 1.6 million new cancer cases and almost 600,000 deaths in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “Predictive gene tests may be used to help determine the risk of developing common diseases, and pharmacogenetics tests may be used to help identify genetic variations that can influence a person’s response to medicines.”
On Thursday, April 21, 2016, a panel of experts will address the complexities of genetic testing at The 6th Annual Cancer Forum: Genetic Awareness – Saving Lives One Family at a Time. The forum, open to the public at no charge, and offered to healthcare professionals as continuing education, is presented by nonprofits Hope Abounds in collaboration with the South East Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC).
“People that have inherited a gene mutation in their repair system have a propensity to develop cancer, and there’s a whole family of these gene repair systems,” says panelist Dr. Gregory Bebb, of Wilmington Surgical Associates. “The famous one is actress Angelina Jolie. She inherited the BRCA mutation that puts you at risk for breast and ovarian cancer. There are others that put you at risk for melanoma, colon cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, thyroid cancer, and pancreatic cancers.”
Forum attendees will learn more about the critical nature of family histories, both paternal and maternal; identifying important markers for candidates of genetic testing; taking preventive measures to reduce the probability of a cancer diagnosis; and how and when to become a good advocate for genetic testing.
“Of all breast cancer patients, one in ten are carrying an inherited mutation, so most breast cancer cases are random,” says Dr. Bebb. “I think it is important to get working definitions on cancer and genetics … you want to know when we are talking about inherited genetic problems and when are we talking about the random genetic events that happen in the course of a normal life.”
According to the CDC, there are “valid and useful tests, such as those for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, or for Lynch syndrome, a form of hereditary colorectal cancer, not widely used, in part because of limited research on how to get useful tests implemented into practice across U.S. communities.”
“I think genetic testing is on the upstroke,” says Dr. Bebb “Genetic testing may end up saving the health care system, not just predicting who will get cancer, but who responds to what kind of therapy and saving costs in the healthcare system.”
Objectives of the forum for healthcare professionals include staying up to date with genetic testing standards of care; understanding how to incorporate genetic testing into medical practice for appropriate patients; implementing better systems for gathering family histories and learning how it benefits patient outcomes; and, how to discuss genetic testing in the everyday clinic. The forum qualifies for continuing education (SEAHEC).
Medical professionals on the panel include Dr. Gregory Bebb, Wilmington Surgical Associates; Dr. Patrick Maguire, Coastal Carolina Radiation Oncology Center; Dr. Kenneth Fink, Donayre Cancer Care Center, Columbus Regional Healthcare System; and Sarah J. Brown, Family Nurse Practitioner, Novant Health.
Bob Townsend, cancer survivor and morning anchor for WECT-TV, NBC, will moderate the forum, 7 to 9 p.m. in Daniels Hall at Cape Fear Community College. Parking is free. The forum will also be available via simulcast at Columbus Regional Healthcare in Whiteville, N.C., and Novant Health – Brunswick Medical Center in Boliva, N.C.
“Our goal is to save lives and help patients get through the cancer journey,” said Elizabeth Barnes, Hope Abounds Executive Director. “One of the biggest ways we can help patients and families is through education. There is empowerment in knowledge.”
“For the previous five years, the cancer forum was a physician’s panel for the public,” says Barnes. “This year we’re adding continuing education for healthcare professionals so we can all learn more about Genetic testing and challenge everyone to think more about family history and the patient circle of care.”
Hope Abounds is a Wilmington-based nonprofit dedicated to helping women and children with cancer and their families. SEAHEC is a nonprofit that works to improve the quality of healthcare by providing training, education, and resources to healthcare professionals.