Screening for Early Cancer Detection
Ultrasound and Genetic Testing
An interview by Tina Sindwani, MD
Cancer is a disease that people are continually trying to understand so they can avoid it. I get asked often by my patients how they can be more proactive in their health and longevity. They are trying to lead healthy lifestyles; exercising, eating a strict diet and getting enough sleep, but they want to know what more they can do to prevent dangerous diseases such as cancer and heart disease, from affecting them.
Lifestyle certainly plays a role in preventing cancer, but there are other modalities that we can consider for early detection; meaning, catching cancer when it is early and hopefully treatable and curable. The US Preventive Task Force recommends routine screenings for cancers such as cervical, colon and breast cancer (see our health checklists for men and women), but there are many cancers that we don’t routinely screen for. So the question is, how can we detect those cancers at an early stage when they are treatable? The modalities I generally recommend or discuss with my patients are genetic testing and imaging.
I am thrilled to bring a two-part interview in which I speak with experts across Mount Sinai on the options for early cancer detection, how they work and why they are effective:
- Ultrasound for Early Cancer Detection with Lyris Schonholz, MD, radiologist at Mount Sinai specializing in diagnostic and screening ultrasound
- Genetic Testing for Early Cancer Detection with Kenan Onel, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Cancer Prevention and Wellness at Mount Sinai
During my conversation with Dr. Onel, he reminds us just how common cancer is; stating that over the course of our lifetime, 1-in-2 women and 1-in-3 men will develop cancer. Staggering numbers that make this conversation even more worthwhile.
Ultrasound for Early Cancer Detection
Lyris Schonholz, MD is a board certified radiologist specializing in diagnostic and screening ultrasound. Her focus is diagnosing cancers in their earliest stages specializing in abdominal and pelvic ultrasound screenings for asymptomatic men and women. We met to discuss the benefits of ease of ultrasound screenings in comparison to other screening methods and why there still seems to be some controversy around the use of ultrasound for early cancer detection.
Dr. Schonholz, can you please describe your ultrasound practice and the work you are doing.
Can you describe ultrasound and how it compares to other screening options?
At what age should people start ultrasound for cancer screening and who should be getting screened?
What cancers can and cannot be screened for using ultrasound and what other benign findings can be detected during a screening?
Why do you feel ultrasound cancer screening is still considered controversial?
Genetic Testing for Early Cancer Detection
Kenan Onel, MD, PhD is known internationally for his work on hereditary cancer and is recognized as a leader in functional genomics, which integrates genetic and laboratory investigations, leading to new insights into human health and disease. As Director of the Center for Cancer Prevention and Wellness and Associate Director of Clinical Cancer Genetics and Precision Oncology at The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai, Dr. Onel heads a program that provides services for patients and families at high risk of cancer through lifelong preventive care and surveillance. The program offers genetic counseling and testing in blood relatives of individuals who have specific genetic mutations and extends ongoing personalized care for at-risk family members. The goal is to ensure optimal health and wellness, and prevent development of cancer when possible.
What do you feel is the role of genetic testing in the early detection of cancer?
Are there specific populations of people where you would highly recommend they get cancer genetic testing?
What are some of the most common hereditary cancer syndromes you are seeing and what do you do about them?
How is a genetic test from a health care institution differ from the tests available in the consumer market?
Are there people who you would not recommend genetic testing? Can you recall someone who has had a negative experience?
What is the added value of genetic testing in addition to routine screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies and others?
There are several protections in place to keep your genetic information safe. For more information on the safety, see the Genetic Information Non-Discriminatory Act of 2008 (GINA).
If a member of The Health Center, contact us to discuss your early cancer detection screening options. Our Personal Health Navigators are accessible by chat through the member portal or by calling 646.819.5100.
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