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Understanding personalized medicine

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

At 62, Chris Berrier considers herself pretty healthy, but the retired Lilburn nurse sometimes feels like she's looking over her shoulder

"It could make me crazy. It could make me , like, get OCD, only health foods. I don't do that,"says Berrier

Because when you look at her family's medical history - Chris says - it's not a pretty picture. Her mother died at 61, after battling both breast and ovarian cancer; her mother's mother also died at 61, also from ovarian cancer. Other relatives struggled with heart disease, and stroke. "I feel like I'm somewhat taking care of myself. I probably don't exercise as much as I should, but I conscious of what I eat and I'm very meticulous about having my physicals."

Chris gets regular checkups with Rockbridge Family Medicine's Dr. Tina-Ann Thompson, who is a big believer in learning more about your family health history, and sharing what you find with your doctor." Diabetes is probably the number one thing that you need to really be honest about," says Dr. Thompson "Heart disease. though, is also very big. A lot of men tell me, but some of the women tend to forget that their family history is important for heart disease,"

Dr. Thompson works with patients like Chris to create a personalized care plan, based not just on their family history and individual risk factors." Someone who really wants to know how to stay healthy and stay well, then we go full court. I find out what her parents had, what her grandparents, siblings had, the illness that they had, when they got it." The doctor adds she will then start looking 10 years before that to figure out how to tell her patient how to avoid those particular illnesses.

After her mother's death, Chris underwent genetic testing, but did not have the BRCA gene mutations that raise her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. If you have a strong family history of a certain disease, gene tests can look for alterations in your DNA or RNA that may raise your risk of developing the same disorder " At the end of the day, no matter what the genes show, we're still looking at probabilities," says Dr. Thompson

Chris Berrier knows there are no guarantees, but she's okay with that.

"I'm a Christian and God knows what my plan is. I trust Him. He's gotten me through everything so far. Whatever comes,we'll handle it."

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