Sisters Promote Genetic Testing for Families with Cancer History

By: Gina Pitisci Email
By: Gina Pitisci Email

DOTHAN, Ala. - Most cancers occur by chance, however, in some families there are more occurrences of cancer than by chance alone. Sisters, Lynn Cole and Terry Brewer have been directly affected and are now educating the community about the importance of genetic testing.

Terry Brewer recalls “we went home on a Friday afternoon and hospice started that Saturday morning and by Saturday evening, she had dropped into that light coma. Terry's 37 year old daughter, Nicole Hayes, passed away from breast cancer and just weeks before, Terry was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 9 years.

Terry admits that it was her sister, Lynn, that introduced her to the genetic testing and says “oh how I wish that I had done it 5 years ago and it might have made a difference in my child’s life.”
Research shows that knowing your family history and early detection can greatly reduce the risk of developing hereditary cancers.

Lynn says that the physicians informed her that in order for all the pieces to come together and for them to see how a family is affected genetically it was important for her sister to be tested and that would give a true picture for her children.

Rather than requiring a blood sample for genetic testing as they have in the past, there is a new oral rinse process releases cells in the lining of the mouth. The sample is then processed in a laboratory to obtain DNA for analysis and results are returned within two weeks.

According to Dr. Steven Stokes, a Radiation Oncologist at Southeast Alabama Medical Center, “there are certain red flags that we look for, one, did they develop breast cancer before the age of 50, has someone in your family had bi-lateral breast cancer, did your mother or sister have ovarian cancer.” Most insurance companies cover the majority of the cost for genetic testing. Physicians highly recommend monthly self breast exams, preventive drug therapy and when necessary, preventive surgery.

Terry continues to stay strong with the help of her family and her faith and wants to help educate others on the importance of genetic testing. She says “you're never ready and you never want to see your child take that last breath and that's why it's important to do whatever you can to prevent this.


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