Preventive health care at the forefront of genetic testing at CHRISTUS Ochsner Wellness Screening and Genetics Center

CHRISTUS Ochsner Wellness Screening and Genetics Center(Chandler Watkins)
Updated: Dec. 2, 2019 at 8:42 PM CST

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - It’s been about a year since CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital opened its Wellness, Screening, and Genetics Center in Lake Charles.

So far around 1,700 have come through the doors for genetic testing according to Nurse Navigator Leah Marcantel.

She says while more women have done the screening, as it is offered to them when they come in for their mammograms, they have seen more interest from men than ever before.

“When they walk in the front door and check-in they are offered a tablet that asks them some personal questions that help us to gather a lifetime risk score, as well as their family history of any of these hereditary cancers,” Marcantel said. “A lot of people meet testing criteria, which is why we kind of wanted to start that conversation about talking about family history. Some cancers, they just haven’t found a hereditary link yet so we can’t test for everything. But if they have that kind of family history, it’s something we can definitely have a conversation about.”

It's a questionnaire I filled out myself to see if I qualified for further testing, answering questions like 'have I ever been pregnant' or 'have I ever had hormone replacement therapy'.

My test scores came back with around a 15% lifetime risk, something Marcantel says I didn’t need to worry about.

But it’s a conversation Jennifer Manard decided to have.

“Breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, lung, throat, stomach and pancreatic," Manard said. "All immediate family members so, you know, seeing all that and helping them go through all that and watching them go through that I thought if I have a chance to prevent it, I’m going to go with it.”

She says her mom convinced her to do the genetic test with her family’s high risk.

“I brought the paperwork my mother gave me and I met with Miss Leah,” Manard said. "We did blood work, you wait for 4 to 6 weeks and it comes back and tells you exactly what your mutations are from your genetic history. I came back with BRCA 1 and Chk1.″

“The most common mutations are BRCA 1, BRCA 2," Marcantel said. "They are considered breast and ovarian but there are really several other cancers that are linked with that. Men have an increased risk for prostate, anyone could have pancreatic risk, there could be some melanoma risk.”

In Manard’s case, she says she was already being monitored for breast, ovarian and colon cancer, but she says she was surprised when she was found she was at risk for pancreatic cancer.

“It’s good to know because, with pancreatic cancers, it’s called the silent killer," Manard said. "No one really knows you have it until it’s developed and by that time, it could be incurable. I wasn’t aware of that. It was shocking to me, but it’s good to know so I can stay on top of tests and try to prevent it.”

She says she will be traveling to New Orleans to have a piece of her pancreas removed to do more testing.

After genetic testing is reviewed, Marcantel says a personalized plan is created to take a proactive and preventive approach to the patient’s health. She says rarely do patients have to pay out of pocket for the genetic testing.

“If we know there is something there, there is a lot that we can act on," Marcantel said. "We can move toward prevention and then if you are negative, you can breathe a sigh of relief because you don’t have an inherited risk. Your family knows, your kids would know they don’t have an inherited risk. If there is something there, then you know there is something there and it is not an unknown thing that is kind of lurking around. So either way, I think it is good information to have and you can decide what the best fit is for follow-up care.”

For more about genetic testing at CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital click here.

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