NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — We all hope to never have to see an oncologist, but in many families with a history of cancer, people often expect the day will inevitably come.

Dr. Ranjit Goudar, with Virginia Oncology Associates, wants these people to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

“My concern is that patients are standing on the train tracks listening to the whistle and waiting for the train to come and are not aware there are a team of specialists that will stand there with you, listen to the train and help you step off the tracks,” he said.

Dr. Goudar said people with a family history of cancer should consider genetic testing. Those who had genetic testing prior to 2013 may want to do it again.

“Many times we need to take another swing, another bite at the apple at a family that’s looked into this in the past,” Dr. Goudar said.

That is because doctors now have the technology to discover so much more about a person’s cancer risks. Science can now detect risks for cancers of the breast, colon, pancreas, ovaries, and kidneys better than it did a decade ago.

A simple blood draw or saliva sample can identify dozens of cancer risk genes and there are 100 ways a patient can qualify for genetic testing.

“I would absolutely love to intervene in a patient and a family in a way that in worst case identify cancer as early as possible and best case to actually prevent it,” he said.

Dr. Goudar told WAVY that health insurance will almost always cover the cost for those who qualify; the catch is life insurance. You may want to get a policy or make changes before you get genetic testing.

Testing is usually done at an oncology practice. For women, you may consult with your gynecologist.

Goudar said knowing the risk allows patients to face things head on and make plans about extra screening. “It enables you to stay as far ahead of cancer as possible.”

Genetic Testing Resources:

American Cancer Center

National Cancer Institute

CDC: Genetic Testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Riverside Health System

Chesapeake Regional