Cancer has become a widespread disease in recent years, and many of us know at least one person who has suffered from it. In most cases, cancer develops by chance; however, in some cases it develops because of genetics, which means some people are more inclined to develop different types of cancer. Those people also have a high chance of passing those genes to their offspring, and that is why Cook Children’s decided to open the Genetic Oncology Clinic.
The program, which provides clinical care and counseling to children and their parents with a predisposition to cancer, is considered one of very few in the United States. It is a collaboration of among pediatric oncologists, geneticists and genetic counselors who educate, guide and survey children with a predisposition to cancer.
“Between 10 to 14 percent of all pediatric cancers have a genetic component, so that means they have a genetic predisposition. Because of that, we really need to be testing most children who are diagnosed with cancer”, said Dr. Becky Althaus, Genetic Counselor.
The clinic sees patients who are at risk of having cancer passed on to them, which means their siblings or other close family members could be at risk of developing the same cancer, or the patients could eventually pass the cancerous gene to their children.
Right now, the clinic is welcoming over 20 patients a day. If a visiting child is diagnosed with a genetic form of cancer the family members will be checked immediately.
"I think our families trust us and that's why they are in treatment or surveillance. They trust the information we are giving them. It is the most up to date information we have. We are providing family-centered care. We are going to give that family our undivided attention while they are at the clinic. That says a lot about what we are able to offer kids and families at Cook Children's. I think it's important that we continue to do that for families in every way possible.", said Heather Jernigan, a hematology and oncology clinic nurse and the nurse coordinator of Genetic-Oncology Clinic.
Cook Children’s Medical Center is now expanding to its endeavors to the Middle East and hopes to extend its care to the children in the region. The promise of improving the health of every child started at Fort Worth, Texas and is now reaching all parts of the world.