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How genetic testing can help fight prostate cancer

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and researchers are finding new ways to keep 200,000 men from being diagnosed every year.

SEATTLE — The American Cancer Society predicts nearly 200,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. So, it's an important topic all men should be discussing with their doctor, or in some cases, a geneticist.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key, and it's especially important for men who have a family history of the disease. Lauren Facchini, a genetic counselor with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, explains genetic testing can be extremely insightful for those whose fathers or grandfathers suffered from the disease.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men. One in nine men in the U.S. are affected by it each year, according to Facchini.

However, about 5-10% of prostate cancer cases and 10-15% of metastatic prostate cancer cases are due to a genetic mutation that can be inherited, according to Facchini. This means the children and siblings of these prostate cancer patients have a 50% chance of inheriting this mutation.

RELATED: Why it's important to get screened for prostate cancer at every yearly check-up

If your father or grandfather had prostate cancer and they are still alive, Facchini recommended that person receive genetic testing. If that person has a genetic mutation, other at-risk family members can then get tested. 

If those family members also have the mutation, doctors can create a screening plan depending on the family member's risk.

To begin the process, Facchini recommended asking your doctor for a referral to a genetics clinic for testing.

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