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Our Apologies

The NCH Genetics Program is no longer offered. Please speak with your doctor about options that may be available to you.

You may be interested in PEARLS at NCH, a program for women at high risk for breast cancer. Learn more here.

Offering Answers

Genetic counseling and testing at NCH provide a course of action

A mother's love. Sometimes it means moving heaven and earth to help a child. And sometimes it only requires a simple test.

Take, for example, 60-year-old Arlington Heights resident Kathie Hahn. After two battles with breast cancer—one five years ago and most recently last year—Hahn says her thoughts turned to her two grown daughters and 7-year-old granddaughter, and the possibility they may be more susceptible to cancer. So, she sought to find out as much as possible about hereditary risks. That led her to the genetic counseling services at Northwest Community Hospital.

Upon the advice of her oncologist, Gary Kay, MD, Hahn met with Holly LaDuca, a genetic counselor at NCH. "Genetic counseling is an opportunity for patients to come in and really learn more about their risk based on their personal and family history," LaDuca says. "We use that medical history to assess the likelihood of there being a hereditary component to the cancer in their family."

The Experience

Prior to meeting, Hahn provided LaDuca with a detailed medical history and her "family tree."

"Based on this information, we talked about how genetic testing could be helpful in clarifying whether there is a hereditary component," LaDuca says. "Then I used risk assessment models to determine the likelihood of those genes being the cause of the disease."

In Hahn's case, LaDuca shared with her the option of testing the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. "While mutations in these genes account for a significant amount of hereditary breast cancer, they're not the only ones," LaDuca explains. "Personal and family history are keys to determining which genes should be analyzed."

A simple test is needed to gather the DNA sample, which can be obtained through blood or saliva. Once this information was shared, Hahn decided to proceed with the genetic testing. After the results came in, Hahn met again with LaDuca, who explained the results and their meaning in detail.

Family Matters

"My daughters are 36 and 33," Hahn says. "They're at the age where they're younger than the standard to receive a mammogram, but all this information allowed them to speak with their doctors proactively. As a result, they'll be receiving mammograms earlier in their lives with regard to prevention and detection.

"I think that's the beauty of genetic counseling and testing," Hahn says. "The results of the tests allow you to proceed with your life, one way or another. It wasn't as though I was expecting a positive, but you don't know until you're tested."

To read other patient success stories, click here.

Holly LaDuca

Holly LaDuca, MS, CGC

Genetic Counselor

  • Cancer Services, Northwest Community Hospital
  • Degree: Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Northwestern University


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Last Updated 04/10/2009