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: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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