Some Tri-Citians may find at-home DNA test kits under the Christmas tree this year, as more and more people are using them to learn about their ancestry.
Some kits even can reveal potential medical issues, such as inherited mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes that mean an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
However, when it comes to genetic health information, those in-home results can be limited and misunderstood, some medical experts caution.
A health care provider with years of experience in the field has recently moved back to the Tri-Cities — and she wants to help women determine their genetic cancer risks.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Rachel Gorham — a nurse practitioner with expertise in breast cancer risk assessment, hereditary cancer syndromes, cancer genetics and cancer prevention — can screen for BRCA mutations and more, then chart a course based on the results.
“Being able to provide (this kind of) care means a lot to me,” Gorham said.
She’s part of Physicians Immediate Care and Medical Center.
Gorham focuses on women’s health, providing everything from preconception to menopause care. She determines if genetic testing is needed based on factors such as family history.
“Some patients don’t want to know — it’s scary. But I let my patients know that if they have a mutation, I am giving them a gift: we’ve caught a gene that could have caused them cancer,” Gorham said. “The gift is that they’re not going to get cancer. I’m either going to take it away with surgery, or we’re going to prevent it by watching them very closely on a high protocol of monitoring.”
Gorham practiced at Trios Health in Kennewick for several years before moving to Seattle to specialize in cancer genetics, oncology and breast health.
She’s board certified as a women’s health nurse practitioner and in advanced genetics nursing, and she’s on the board of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health.
Gorham grew up in Waitsburg.
She worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery at Trios Health for several years before going back to school to become a nurse practitioner.
She’s also founder of The Healing Hands Project, a nonprofit that provides menstrual hygiene kits to homeless women. She was inspired by her daughter, Makenzie, 10, who was moved to share her dinner with a homeless woman she met.
For Gorham, women’s health and genetics is fulfilling work.
And she’s glad to be back in the Tri-Cities.
“This is where my family is. My heart was always drawn here,” Gorham told the Herald. “Being able to serve the community that I’ve grown up in — I felt like there was so much good I could do here by moving back and helping women.”