•  After a long journey to recovery, Renae is determined to avoid a second cancer diagnosis

    As a nurse of 14 years, Renae Pilok of Rome understands sickness all too well. So when she knew her body was trying to tell her something and she wasn’t feeling quite like herself, she took control of her healthcare and persisted until she got an answer.

    The answer came on October 29, 2015 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a disease that originates in your lymphatic system. Renae’s journey to recovery has been difficult, but gratefully she is in remission.

    Now, four years later, Renae is faced with a new chapter in her health and wellness journey and is still very much in control. While at Rome Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center for her annual screening mammogram, she was asked to complete a hereditary cancer risk questionnaire. The questionnaire is designed to identify those who may be at higher clinical risk and are candidates for genetic testing. Based upon her answers about her family history, Renae was offered access to genetic testing which screens for 35 genetic mutations that impact hereditary risk for eight cancers.

    “Thinking about what that testing may uncover was daunting,” Renae said. “But I didn’t hesitate.”

    “I don’t want to go through chemotherapy again, especially if I can prevent it.”

    Renae wanted the information, not only for herself but her two daughters and granddaughter. “The thought of having this information was empowering,” Renae added.

    “There is no history of breast cancer in Renae’s family,” explained Rome Memorial Hospital Nurse Navigator Linda Lyon, RN,CN-BN, who has been by Renae’s side since the mammogram. “Since there wasn’t a connection to breast cancer in Renae’s family, we didn’t expect Renae’s testing results to reveal she is BRCA2 positive.”

    People who inherit mutations in a BRCA2 gene have a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate, and other types of cancer. For example, they have up to an 87% risk of developing breast cancer, compared to the general population, who have an 8% risk without the mutation. The risk of ovarian cancer is less than 1% for most people, but it increases to 63% for those who are BRCA positive.
    What does this mean for Renae?

    “It took a little time for me to come to terms with what my DNA was telling me, but I realized that this knowledge is powerful and will help me be proactive in managing my health care and making some decisions,” Renae said.

    Renae continued, “My daughters are both in their twenties. Thank God they know about their possible hereditary risk at an early age and can talk with their doctors about what is right for them.”

    “And, thank God I know my risks now before I get cancer again.”

    Guided by Linda Lyon and the Personalized Medicine team at Rome Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center, Renae can confidently make choices in her healthcare plan by discussing her options with her providers or an experienced genetic counselor.

    “Knowing the result of a genetic test will impact the care management plan for the individual as well as an entire family - siblings, cousins, children and grandchildren,” Linda explained.

    “It is a blessing to know your risks before you get cancer,” Renae added. “This knowledge actually takes away the stress of the unknown and gives me the best chance to live a long and healthy life.”

    Renae is moving forward with the help of ‘her team’ in Rome Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center, which has developed its “personalized medicine” approach to care based upon each patient’s risk factors.

    Helping patients like Renae make the decisions most comfortable for them and navigating them through the health care continuum is Linda Lyon, nurse navigator. As a registered nurse, she assists the hospital’s integrated team members by working with the radiologist and patients’ doctors.

    The team of experienced and highly-trained radiologists and imaging technologists is led by John Restivo, MD, radiologist and chairman of the hospital’s Medical Imaging Department. The American College of Radiology has recognized Rome Memorial Hospital as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence for providing patients with the highest level of imaging quality in low-dose 3D mammography, breast MRI (including MRI-guided biopsy), stereotactic breast biopsy and breast ultrasound (including ultrasound-guided breast biopsy).

    The Center offers convenient hours and fast service with a variety of mammography appointment hours available to meet the needs of busy women:
    • Monday through Friday, 7:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
    • Extended hours as early as 6:30 a.m. or as late as 7 p.m. during the week
    • Frequent Saturday appointments available from 7:15 p.m. to 2 p.m.

    To learn how the Women’s Imaging Center’s team can help you on your wellness journey, call Personalized Medicine Program Director Leigh Loughran at 315.338.7577.