Mercy’s Dr. David Riseberg Discusses Genetic Counseling, Testing After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

October 6, 2015
Medical Oncology at Mercy - Baltimore

For women with breast cancer, genetic testing can be an important tool.

It can indicate a risk for developing other cancers, or the likelihood a family member could develop cancer. But a recent survey of breast cancer patients found 43 percent of these women did not discuss genetic testing with their physician.

Renee Spencer was not one of those women.

Spencer was recently diagnosed for the second time with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Doctors say that is unusual for a woman as young as she is, so she decided to undergo genetic testing.

Her test came back positive for BRCA-1, a genetic mutation that puts her at risk for other cancers. She made an important decision.

"I had already had a partial hysterectomy," Spencer said. "This time I had to get my ovaries out and I opted to get my double mastectomy. That was the best treatment for me."

According to Mercy’s Dr. David Riseberg, Chief, Division of Hematology and Oncology, though the genetic testing available today can't completely rule out a genetic predisposition to cancer, it can be very useful.

"It's certainly helpful in the decision making about what type of surgery a woman will undergo, and certainly if it's positive, it's helpful in the future planning for other family members about their getting tested," Dr. Riseberg said.

Dr. Riseberg added that he is more apt to discuss genetic testing with patients now then he was 20 years ago because the tests are much better now.

Ashley Low, MGC, cancer genetic counselor at Mercy, has seen an increase in interest too.

"It's gaining speed and people are learning more about it," Low said. "Regardless if testing is indicated or not, a formal risk assessment with a genetic counselor can be very important."

Spencer said she is glad she got tested and feels good about her decisions.


Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: dcollins@mdmercy.com Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at www.mdmercy.com, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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