FORTY FORT, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Determining if you’re likely to get certain diseases comes down to your family health history. Specifically, it’s your genetic makeup that offers clues to your health and conditions you could pass onto your children.
Knowledge of your genetics is why on April 25 we celebrate what’s called World DNA Day. DNA, which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the carrier of genetic information. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it’s also key to significant research underway in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
“They started to talk to me about the fact that my cancer could be genetically linked.” After Cassandra Pisieczko was diagnosed with uterine cancer five years ago, she underwent genetic testing which revealed another disturbing discovery. “I have a condition called Lynch syndrome.”
Learning she had that inherited risk factor empowered Cassandra and her family to take action. “Members of my family found out that they had this condition and were able to prevent cancer from happening.”
Drawing an example of a pedigree chart, Genetic Counselor Marci Schwartz used such a diagram at Geisinger Precision Health Center in Forty Fort to illustrate the presence or absence of inheritance traits in a person or family. It demonstrates the valuable genetic information that unlocks secrets of disease and its symptoms. “That can be really helpful to guide medical care for that person or their family members in terms of future risks.”
Research at Geisinger Genomic Medicine Institute, one of the leading research facilities in the field, focuses on learning more about the DNA genetic code that determines all characteristics of a living thing. The goal through emerging testing and analysis is improved healthcare. “There’s an area called pharmacode genetics which is targeting drugs to an individual based on what works well with how they would process medication in their genetic makeup,” said Ms. Schwartz.
It’s had such an impact on Cassandra’s life, she is now pursuing a career in genetic counseling. “I just feel so lucky to be living in a time we’re living in when genomics can make such a difference in our lives.”
Geisinger uses participating patients’ information as part of its My Code Community Health Initiative.