A Blood Tests Can Determine Your Cancer Risk

"I worried about it. I worried about it a lot."

Deb Ramsey feared cancer.

"I was less than 50 years old and I wanted to live a long time. I had a grandson I wanted to watch grow up." says Ramsey.

Deb had a long family history of cancer. Her grandparents, cousins, even siblings battled the disease ,but for Deb, watching her mom die of breast cancer was most devastating .

"I had nursed my mom and I knew that's the sickest I could ever be trying to get over chemo and that stuff and I just thought I don't want to put my family though that and I don't want to go through that ."

So Deb went to ETMC and met Betty Althaus, a genetic counselor with a PhD. Betty took a simple blood test from Deb that identifies cancer causing genetic mutations.
   Her blood was analyzed for a month and unfortunately the news was not good for Deb. She learned she had an 87 percent chance of having breast cancer and a 44 percent chance of having ovarian cancer, so Deb did something radical.

"I decided to have a double mastectomy done and reconstructive surgery and I had a hysterectomy."

Although her decision is controversial, she believes she made the right one and that her chance of getting breast or ovarian cancer now are very minimal - about five percent.

But some doctors believe mastectomies and hysterectomies before a person is ever diagnosed with cancer are unnecessary and dangerous.

Deb stands by her decisions and encourages women to get genetic testing done now if they are at risk for cancer.

The genetic testing is only done at ETMC in all of East Texas and it is covered by most insurance companies. Many critics of the procedure have also said if you get it done and then get cancer, insurance companies won't cover you because it would be classified as a pre existing condition, but a Texas law effective July 1, 1997, states genetic testing cannot be used to prevent giving insurance coverage to patients.