Families share many wonderful things: love, tradition, memories.
Sadly, families also share cancer risks.
As many as 5% to 10% of common cancers are inherited.
Now, Memorial Hospital has a free program designed to help families assess their risk of inheriting cancers and get tips on preventing cancer.
Cancer of the esophagus killed 50-year-old Mike Hunnicutt’s father and grandfather.
His wife, Cari, also has a family history with skin and other cancers. These parents of three and grandparents of one want to help their family prevent cancer, if they can.
Mike says, “Since cancer runs on my side of the family and hers, we thought it would be interesting.”
Cari says, “My mother had lung cancer. My grandfather, who was 90 and had never been in the hospital a day in his life, was diagnosed with colon cancer.”
Cari, who is a nurse, also battled obesity, once weighing nearly 300 pounds.
“I actually had been told I had a fatty liver, and that's what made me. They told me if I didn't do something about it, I would probably be dead within ten years.”
So when the Hunnicutt’s found out about Memorial’s Free Family Cancer Check Out, they decided to get on board.
Filling out questionnaires from the comfort of their home, they will get their risk assessment from Memorial’s cancer experts.
Oncology nurse navigator Amy Timlin meets with the family with results in hand.
She says, “There are a lot of cancers that have a familial genetic predisposition…Little lifestyle changes can make a big difference, and if you do these changes in your lifestyle, you can automatically decrease your cancer risk.”
So, what kind of news would the Hunnicutt’s get?
Timlin informed them their overall cancer risk is low.
That is great news for the Hunnicutt’s as they try to live a healthy lifestyle.
Cari, who before losing weight was told she could die within ten years, was thrilled to see how her lifestyle changes changed her risk.
She says, “I like seeing low risk, low risk, low risk.”
19-year-old Hannah is a college student, and while she did not give a lot of thought to cancer at her age, she is happy she took part in the check out.
She says, “I want to have a family some day, so I think it would be good to know right now, so that if I do need to change anything, that can happen.”
12-year-old Michael learned that, just like teenage girls, he can get the Gardasil vaccine now to help prevent causing cervical cancer as an adult.
He says, “I didn't know that they had it for boys too.”
23-year-old Nicole is mom to 21-month-old Cullen, and while she was told her body mass index needs to improve, she wasn't thrilled, but she knows she needs to do a little more to make sure she and her son stay healthy.”
Nicole says, “He has the same genes as me, so it's good for me to find out, so I can tell him about it and help him when he gets older…Exercise and eat better.”
Nurse Timlin says that is the point of Cancer Check Out, “I can explain that you are in good health, but we can get you to better health and decrease your risk even more.”
This family is making sure their family portraits of the future make cancer a part of the Hunnicutt family’s past.
If you would like more information on this Free Family Cancer Check Out, you can call the Memorial Regional Cancer Center.
For their information, just click on the Big Red Bar.