Genetic Testing Helps Ovarian Cancer Patient Learn the Implications for her Family

The pain in her stomach was what Renea Lancaster noticed first.


“Back at the first of the year, I had been increasing my exercise somewhat, and I

developed some abdominal pain that I ignored, because whose belly doesn’t hurt?” said Lancaster.


Two weeks later, the pain had grown much worse.


“It bent me double, so I left work and went to my family doctor’s office, and I was treated

for diverticulitis,” said Lancaster.


When the lab work came back the next day, her doctor suspected something more and scheduled a CT scan.


“When I had the CT, it was so inflamed that they couldn’t really see anything, so they continued to treat me for diverticulitis, and they set me up with a GI doctor,” said Lancaster.


She finished her medicine and got another bout of what she thought was diverticulitis.


“Five months and several doctors later, a biopsy showed that it was ovarian cancer,” said Lancaster.


At first, they estimated it was at stage 3, but after surgery was done to remove the ovaries, it was determined to be stage 4B. Lancaster had chemo every three weeks for five months and needed a second surgery, as well.


“When I was first diagnosed, the first thing I thought about was my children,” said Lancaster, who has two daughters and a son. Lancaster decided to take advantage of the genetic counseling service offered at the Cancer Center to find out if her children might be affected. She met with genetic counselor Ashley Cohen, MS, LCGC, to get tested and to have guidance in understanding the results.


“We did a very large test for Renea and looked at all different types of cancers just to cast a wide net,” said Cohen. “We did a saliva test and sent the sample out to the laboratory, which tested for around 40 genes, and the only thing that came back positive was the RAD51D gene.”


When Lancaster received her results, all three of her children and several other family members got tested, too. One family member learned that she also carried the mutation, and having this knowledge will help her make better-informed medical decisions going forward.


Although the RAD51D gene is associated with ovarian cancer, it’s important for male family members to be tested, as well.


“RAD51D is a newly discovered gene, and the risks for men have not yet been well defined, but it can be beneficial for men to know if they carry the gene, because if they do, it can affect their daughters,” said Cohen.


“I’ve learned a lot through Ashley, and that was the main reason I did the genetic counseling, so my kids would be able to know,” said Lancaster. “I wish I had known that I carried it, but I didn’t, so I’m thankful that at least they can know.”


For more information about the genetic counseling program at Cookeville Regional, visit or call (931) 783-2476.