She Was Adopted and Had No Idea About Her Medical History, Until Now

Jennifer Irish was excited when she learned her children had purchased a DNA kit from for her for Mother’s Day 2018.

After all, Jennifer was adopted and never had the luxury of knowing her family history, including her medical history. This had always been particularly frustrating for Jennifer, as she happens to be in the genetic health industry, working for Myriad Women’s Health as a strategic account manager. At Myriad, she advocates for people every day about the risks of hereditary cancer syndromes. But she’d never been able to apply her teachings to herself, because she knew nothing about her birth family.

When her DNA kit results arrived, she learned two important things, in addition to her ethnic makeup:

  1. That she’s more Irish than her husband (whose last name is Irish)
  2. That she matched with a first cousin in the system

With help from the newfound first cousin, Jennifer found her half sister and eventually her birth mother. This opened her eyes to her entire maternal medical history. But it wasn’t good news. The family history was riddled with cancer.

video preview of genetic testing video“The thing that stuck out to me was that everyone who had cancer in that family had died,” Jennifer said. “Knowing what I know about my industry, I knew I needed genetic testing. And I knew there was something I could do with the information I learned.”

So, Jennifer headed to her Ob/Gyn with her newly discovered risk factors, including pancreatic and endometrial cancer, among others. Her doctor helped her submit her tests to Myriad.

“Three weeks later, I got my results via my doctor,” she recalled. “I am positive for a genetic mutation that predisposes me to colon, pancreatic, endometrial and ovarian cancer.”

But rather than being upset with this diagnosis, specifically PMS-2 mutation or Lynch syndrome, Jennifer knew that knowledge is power.

“This was a gift because I know now why people in my family have had cancer,” she said. “And I also know that my fate doesn’t have to be the same, and neither does the fate of my children. I get to do things differently because I know I’m at risk. I need to approach my health differently; and my doctors know as well.”

Because of her genetic test results, Jennifer undergoes yearly colonoscopies. Also, Jennifer’s Ob/Gyn ordered an ultrasound of her ovaries and an endometrial biopsy.

“They found a mass on my left ovary,” she explained. “They never would have looked had it not been for the genetic test results.” She had a total hysterectomy to completely remove the risks from the picture. She never would have even known to look. Now, her life is changed forever.

Thanks to her genetic testing results, Jennifer works with her providers regularly for her ideal, specific medical management. She feels like she and her doctors have a roadmap to follow to keep her healthy.

“I’m optimistic because I have answers; and I had no idea before,” she said. “I have a plan of action.”

AWH-Dallas is proud to provide Myriad myRisk genetic testing through its Tele-Education program. Because of this in-house program, providers can collect a patient’s family history and, based on several indicators, determine whether genetic testing is right for each patient.

Learn more about Tele-Education

With excellent knowledge of her medical predispositions and outstanding care from her providers, Jennifer lives a healthy life. She feels like her personal experiences help her at Myriad to be a stronger champion for patients who have hereditary cancer syndromes.

“Here I was, an advocate for people every single day,” she said. “Then, all of a sudden, I am that person. I go to work now and say, let’s find these people and change their lives. Let’s save their lives.”

Hereditary Cancer Syndrome Facts:

  1. One out of every 279 people in the United States has Lynch syndrome
  2. Once there’s a known mutation in the family, all immediate family members should be tested.
  3. There is a 50/50 chance of inheriting the mutation
  4. Myriad recommends testing at age 18 or older  
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