Farmington Hills woman uses genetic testing to help identify inherited risk of major diseases

Her advice to others is not to let fear stop you from getting answers

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Genetic testing is a growing field, and it’s already saving lives. Doctors are using it as a resource to help identify the inherited risk of people getting major diseases like cancer.

It’s a test Megan Woods recently took. Her results were negative for any risks.

On Friday (March 24), Woods spoke with Sarina Oden, who took the same genetic test, but her results showed she’s a carrier of Lynch syndrome.

Oden said cancer genetics wasn’t on her radar until she saw her primary doctor for a physical.

“The question was, ‘How’s your family doing?’” said Oden. “And at that time, my dad had just got diagnosed with prostate cancer and colon cancer, my mom has a type of leukemia, and my grandmother had breast cancer.”

Oden’s doctor suggested genetic testing, so she went to Corewell Health Beaumont Royal Oak’s Nancy and James Grosfeld Cancer Genetic Center. The center’s director, Dr. Dana Zakalik, said Oden’s diagnosis is serious.

“Lynch syndrome is present in about one in 30 individuals with colon cancer,” said Zakalik. “It is a very important, very significant cause of increased risk of colon cancer, uterine as well as a series of other cancers.”

But finding out you have it is not a death sentence. She said there are several preventative actions to take.

“Instead of starting screening at 45, which is the latest American Cancer Society recommendation, we start as young as 20 to 25 for some of the Lynch genes,” Zakalik said. “We do uterine cancer surveillance. We talk about healthy diet, doing colonoscopies every one to two years, instead of the usual every 10 years,”

Oden said because of Lynch syndrome, she had her first colonoscopy at the age of 41.

“I did actually have two polyps, two or three, I think, and so they were able to remove those and just think if I had waited until the recommended ages of 45,” Oden said. “It might have developed into something else, so it really made me empowered with my health.”

Her advice to others with cancer in their family history is not to let fear stop you from getting answers.

“Sometimes the ‘What ifs’ gets into your brain, and it keeps you up at night, and I like to sleep being able to know this information and working with my doctors, I think is amazing, and it makes me sleep better at night, for sure,” Oden said.

There’s a chance her brother could also have Lynch syndrome. He recently made his appointment for a cancer genetics test. Oden’s son is too young to take a test right now, but she does want him to get one done in the future.

March 19 through March 25 is Lynch Syndrome Awareness Week in Michigan.

For additional information on cancer genetic testing, click here.

Zakalik will speak at an Ask the Doctor panel during Corewell Health’s Women’s Wellness Day on Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Beaumont Neuroscience Center at 3555 West 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak.

More: Genetic testing is a proactive approach to cancer: Why it’s so important

About the Authors:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.