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UVMC Cancer Awareness Symposium Focuses on Testing


Sarah Jones, RN, Oncology Nurse Specialist

Each person must decide if hereditary cancer testing is right for them, health experts said during Upper Valley Medical Center’s annual McGraw Cancer Awareness Symposium Sept. 29 at the Fort Piqua Plaza.

Dr. Sharyn Lewin, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said most cancers are not hereditary and not everyone with an altered gene develops cancer.

“We are trying to understand why some develop cancer, others don’t,” Dr. Lewin said of her research and work in her specialty of ovarian and breast cancer. She spoke by phone from her home in New York after her flight was canceled the day of the symposium because of weather conditions.

The mainstay of attempting to identify which patients will develop cancer is family history, Dr. Lewin said.

Individuals inherit an alerted susceptible gene, not the cancer, she said. For the best picture of family history, a look back three generations is needed.

Sarah Jones, RN, Oncology Nurse Specialist, conducts hereditary risk assessments as part of her role at the UVMC Cancer Care Center. She said in reviewing information she looks for clusters of cancers in families, usually on one side or the other. Early age diagnosis, multiple cancers, multiple rare cancers all can be indicators, Jones said.

With any type of genetic testing, counseling is important, Jones stressed. Lewin and Jones both talked about the benefits and limitations of testing. Among benefits is the individual risk assessment, information to help make medical management decisions (medications, surgeries to help reduce risks) and reduced anxiety or stress. Limitations include testing not detecting all causes of hereditary cancer.

Questions to a panel from symposium attendees included the importance of screenings and if there’s a safe age to stop screenings such as colonoscopy and mammography.

Those at risk, such as those with a family member with colon cancer at a young age, usually need to be tested more frequently, said Dr. Stewart Lowry, general surgeon and physician cancer liaison at UVMC. 

Physicians recommend all Americans get screened for colorectal cancer at age 50. “One of the bigger advantages of colonoscopy is if it is negative for the average risk person, there is no rescreening for 10 years,” Dr. Lowry said.


Ronald Setzkorn, M.D., Director of Radiation Oncology at the UVMC Cancer Care Center and Dr. Stewart Lowry, general surgeon and physician cancer liaison at UVMC.

The medical experts said there’s disagreement over whether there’s a safe time to end screenings.

“There’s no magic number. We have guidelines of when to begin but there is no consensus on when they should stop,” said Ronald Setzkorn, M.D., Director of Radiation Oncology at the UVMC Cancer Care Center.

The McGraw Cancer Awareness Symposium is sponsored by the UVMC Foundation and the UVMC Cancer Care Center and made possible by a grant from the McGraw Family Fund of The Troy Foundation and support from Myriad Labs.

The symposium was named in honor of Troy area residents Bill and Ruth McGraw by their children, Bill McGraw, Karen McGraw and Chris Grillot. Between them, Bill and Ruth McGraw had cancer five times but neither died from the disease.

Free counseling about genetic testing for cancer will be provided Oct. 18 and 25 from 2 to 3 pm in the UVMC cafeteria located on the lower level of Upper Valley Medical Center.   

For more information about the UVMC Cancer Care Center, call 440-4820 or visit us online.