Healthwise Maui

Q: I know that certain types of cancer are hereditary. Is that the biggest factor in determining chances of getting cancer?

Dr. Derrick Beech, surgical oncologist, Maui Memorial Outpatient Clinic:  There are several cancers that have genetic mutations associated with increased risk. Most notably, breast and ovarian cancers are associated with mutated BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes. There are several other cancers with genetic-associated increased risk, such as colon cancer, pancreatic cancer and gastric cancer. Although genetic mutations (DNA changes) are associated with increased risk of certain types of cancers, it’s important to remember that the majority of cancers do not have an identified genetic component. There are lifestyle, social and environmental factors that play a role in increased cancer risk — like tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol consumption, diet and obesity. It’s estimated that 25 percent to 50 percent of cancers can be prevented simply from lifestyle alterations and avoiding toxins like tobacco and alcohol.

Even with the best intentions regarding lifestyle risk reductions, and the absence of genetic risk, individuals can still develop cancer. That is why it is important to follow the recommended screening guidelines to identify cancers early, when treatment options will have their greatest success.

Once cancer is diagnosed, it is often beneficial to check the DNA makeup of your particular tumor, which can often guide treatment decisions, such as the type of chemotherapy used. This is called genomic testing. This approach is also referred to as “precision medicine,” because identifying the genomic makeup of an individual’s cancer will allow precise, directed and personalized treatment for that particular patient.

Q: Are there any opportunities to volunteer at Maui Memorial Medical Center?

Barbara Potopowitz, auxiliary president: Maui Memorial Medical Center: The MMMC Hospital Auxiliary is always looking for friendly faces to volunteer. We have opportunities both during the week and on the weekends so you can even come down for a few hours on a Saturday. Our team helps with many tasks at Maui Memorial, including operation of the gift shop (all proceeds go to funding hospital needs), providing weekly iced tea and cookie cart service to hardworking staff and visitors, visiting patients through the Aloha Committee, assisting with comfort cart services for families in need, serving as a liaison between patients’ families and the operating room and ICU, fundraising for medical equipment and scholarships for medical staff, and many other activities that support our staff and patients. We are currently accepting new member applications to join our ohana.

This year we will celebrate 52 years of service to our community and community hospital. If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with the MMMC Hospital Auxiliary, please call me at (808) 280-4707.

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.