Specialized care for children with a predisposition to cancer.
Does cancer run in your family? It might. In fact, a rising number of cancer cases in children and young adults are linked to a genetic predisposition to cancer. To address this issue, Kentucky Children’s Hospital created the Pediatric and Young Adult Cancer Predisposition Clinic.
Children and young adults who benefit from the Pediatric and Young Adult Cancer Predisposition Clinic typically have a strong family history of cancer or a family history of cancer occurring at a young age. Such a history puts a child or young adult at increased risk of developing cancer. At the Cancer Predisposition Clinic, parents learn if their children have gene mutations that increase the risk for an inherited cancer. They’re then given practical steps to move forward.
The process begins with genetic testing, which requires a simple blood draw or cheek swab. Once the results are in, families gain the knowledge to make appropriate healthcare decisions. If no genetic predisposition to cancer is present, parents can relax and get back to life. Should a child have inherited mutations, an individualized program is developed.
Care for children and young adults with a predisposition to cancer typically starts with a custom, personalized surveillance program. A patient at high risk for colorectal cancer, for example, may begin screening in the teenage years. If a patient has a genetic mutation that predisposes them to melanoma, then they would undergo frequent screenings, and photos of changing moles would be regularly reviewed. These steps help detect cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
However, ongoing testing isn’t the only option for children who are predisposed to cancer. Sometimes, the risk of cancer is so high that pre-emptive surgery is recommended. When appropriate, surgery can remove the worrisome area and stop the cancer from having an opportunity to develop. The goal of the program is to identify affected patients as early as possible to offer them comprehensive cancer preventive and surveillance care.
Launched in January 2020, the Cancer Predisposition Clinic serves children and young adults with a personal or family history of cancer and those with identified inherited cancer predisposition. Because cancer affects all areas of life, the Cancer Predisposition Clinic houses a multidisciplinary team of experts.
In addition to pediatric hematologists and oncologists, the Cancer Predisposition Clinic team consists of:
- Cancer genetic counselors
- Nurses and nurse navigators
- Nutrition experts
- School intervention specialists
- Social workers and child life specialists
A family history of cancer is scary. So is finding out that you might have an increased risk of getting cancer. Understanding why that history exists, what cancer you might be at risk for and how you can do something about it is empowering. No one wants to have a predisposition to cancer. If such a risk exists, however, knowing about it gives patients and their families control and allows them to take action now, with confidence, and with the support of a team of experts at UK HealthCare. That’s why the Pediatric and Young Adult Cancer Predisposition Clinic was created; we’re here for you.