Genetic Testing and Hereditary Cancer: A Q & A with Kate McReynolds, APRN, MSc, MSN, ANP-BC, AGN-BC

Kate McReynolds is a Genetic Nurse Practitioner at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. She will be speaking at our upcoming 2nd Annual Faces and Cases in Women’s Health Conference.

What is genetic testing and why is it so important?

Genetic testing for cancer susceptibility is a vital tool that can identify women who are at significantly increased risk for cancer. Nurse practitioners play an important role in identifying women who would benefit from genetic testing, referring them to providers with expertise in cancer genetics for testing, and ordering enhanced screening if a mutation is identified. About 5 to 10 percent of most cancers are hereditary, and patients who have a mutation in a gene associated with a hereditary cancer syndrome have cancer risks that are often much higher than in the general population. For many of these syndromes, we can now test for mutations in specific genes.

Genetic test results can guide clinical management including decisions about risk reducing measures such as risk reducing surgery, and screening to find cancer as early as possible. Genetic testing results can also help a woman’s family members better understand their own cancer risks and plan accordingly.

Should everyone get genetic testing?

Because only a small percentage of cancers are hereditary, not all women are good candidates for genetic testing. These tests can be expensive and are generally recommended only for women who have personal and/or family histories with certain red flags that are concerning for a hereditary cancer syndrome.

Examples of features concerning for a hereditary cancer syndrome include cancer diagnosed before age 50, an individual with multiple primary tumors, cancer of the same type in more than one person on the same side of the family and in different generations, cancers that may be related in a syndrome, rare cancers (e.g. male breast cancer) and certain ethnicities.

What should NPs know about genetic testing and genetic mutations?

When I talk to Nurse Practitioners, my goal is to help them understand the significance of taking a good cancer family history and to familiarize them with the red flags in order for them to make appropriate referrals for genetic counseling and testing. It is important that they understand the cancer risks associated with some of the more common hereditary cancer syndromes and where to find the relevant clinical management guidelines. In addition to playing a key role in enhanced screening, it is also important that that NPs understand the psychosocial impact of finding out they, or a loved one, has a hereditary cancer syndrome.

2016 NPWH/Hologic Inspiration in Women’s Health Award Winners

Since 2006, the Inspiration in Women’s Health Award has been bestowed upon winners selected for their dedication, achievements, and contributions to women’s health care and advanced practice nursing. On September 29, at the 19th Annual NPWH Premier Women’s Healthcare Conference, the 2016 Inspiration in Women’s Health Awards were presented to four awardees who have made significant contributions in the areas of education, research, clinical practice, and policy. An expert committee of nurse practitioners selected a winner in each of these four categories. Read more about this year’s awardees below.

Sharon D. Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP, CMP – Education
Sharon Baker has spent her entire career focused on women’s health. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, she moved to Atlanta to work at Grady Hospital’s labor and delivery unit. While in Atlanta, she earned her masters degree from Emory University in maternal child health and joined the faculty of Medical College of Virginia (MCV) teaching the maternity rotation for undergraduate students. She taught nurse practitioner students at MCV before returning to Georgia to teach maternity nursing at Emory University.

In 1990, she was the first nurse practitioner ever hired in Rome, Georgia. Around this time, she founded a non-profit organization, The Women’s Information Network, Inc. (WIN). The first WIN program focused on a comprehensive presentation of health issues at midlife and menopause. In 1999, the Governor of Georgia appointed Sharon to the Georgia Commission on Women (GCW). She has served as Chair of the Health Committee and been reappointed several times. She works on several committees and writes blog posts on health topics that are the focus of GCW.

Sharon has lectured for many community and state organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and developed and implemented many visionary programs. Sharon’s current project is developing a workshop on end of life issues that will be offered September 27, 2016.

Naomi Jay, RN, NP, PhD – Research
Dr. Naomi Jay developed the role of the nurse practitioner in the field of high-resolution anoscopy, has been a pioneer in anal dysplasia research, and is a leader in the education of providers in high-resolution anoscopy. Her work is innovative and unique. She wrote the seminal paper on transferring colposcopy skills to high-resolution anoscopy.

She currently serves on the boards of the American Society of Cervical Colposcopy and Pathology, Quan Yin Healing Arts, and is the vice president of the International Anal Neoplasia Society. She is the co-director of the ASCCP High Resolution Ansocopy Course, IANS Advanced HRA Course, and the American Society of Colorectal Surgeons HRA Course. The meticulous practice standards developed by Dr. Jay based on her knowledge of cervical colposcopy, are by and large responsible for what are considered the diagnostic standards of HRA today.

Jennifer Kurkowski, MSN, WHNP-BC – Clinical
Jennifer Kurkowski has had a positive impact on so many young females. She specializes in bleeding disorders in young women as well as the health care needs of female patients with lupus. Once a month, she runs a combined clinic with a hematologist where she sees patients with heavy menstrual bleeding and other diagnosed bleeding disorders, such as von Willebrand’s Disease. This clinic is critical in providing the best care possible for these patients as their conditions can be difficult to manage.

Jennifer provides education to patients on topics such as periods and sexual health. She attends a camp once a year for young girls with bleeding disorders, and she is involved in a lupus clinic where she sees girls with a new diagnosis of lupus to discuss contraceptive options and to provide counseling about teratogenic medications and future pregnancy risks. Jennifer has also precepted nurse practitioner students nearly every semester for the past 5 years.

Denise G. Link, PhD, WHNP-BC, CNE, FAAN, FAANP – Policy
Dr. Denise Link has made significant contributions to health care and policy as evidenced by the extensive political and legislative activities she has participated in throughout her career. Dr. Link has been at the forefront of Arizona’s policy issues since 2001. Prior to her relocation to Arizona, she was a leader in the 10 year effort to gain title recognition and full prescriptive authority for NPs and CNS in New Jersey by encouraging her nursing colleagues to speak out to legislators and to the public about the quality, safety, and effectiveness of nursing care. In 2013, as Governmental Affairs Officer, she was the spokesperson for nursing in a coalition led by then Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Nurses Association (AzNA) that intensely lobbied for Medicaid expansion in Arizona. A co-chair in the Arizona Action Coalition, she led the formation of the Arizona Coalition for APRN Consensus Model Legislation.

Dr. Link educates politicians and policy makers about the APRN role as a team leader and speaker at Lobby Day and Public Policy Day. She is the chair for the AzNA Public Policy Committee that reviews bills and makes recommendations for AzNA’s position. She is a member of the AzNA Political Action Committee (AzNA PAC), attending targeted PAC candidate fundraisers and conducting candidate interviews during the endorsement process.

Dr. Link is an infectious and tremendous leader in the political arena and inspires everyone around her to become more active in women’s health policy issues.


Do you know an NP who goes above and beyond in the classroom, in conducting research, in clinical practice, or in their advocacy efforts? If you do, consider nominating them for the 2017 Inspiration in Women’s Health Awards. Nomination information coming in early 2017. Please check www.npwh.org for details. 

Women’s Equality Day 2016

On August 26th, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Women’s Equality Day reminds us of this important milestone in our history and how far we have come since then, as well as how far we have yet to go until women have true equality.

We know that women and men often present different symptoms for the same diseases and react differently to certain drugs, medical devices, and treatments. However, women consistently suffer when their bodies respond differently than men’s. Due to gender disparities in medicine – among research subjects, and in healthcare access and delivery – women remain at risk for misdiagnoses, ineffective treatments and compromised care.

As a leader in women’s healthcare, we work to improve women’s access to primary and specialty healthcare, increase women’s wellness and health outcomes, decrease health disparities affecting women, enhance women’s access to and knowledge of health resources, and protect and promote women’s rights to make choices regarding their health within the context of their personal beliefs.

We can change the inequities in women’s healthcare, by making our voices heard and encouraging others to join the conversation. Take a look at our social media pages to see how we made our voices heard regarding women’s health equity and Women’s Equality Day: NPWH Facebook page and NPWH Twitter account.

April is STI Awareness Month

According to the CDC, there are 20 million new STI cases in the U.S. every year. We know, as dedicated health care providers, you are working hard every day to turn 20 million new cases each year into 0 new cases by helping your patients work through their sexual health questions to make informed decisions, and by serving as a resource for STI prevention and treatment information. To support your efforts we have compiled a list of materials, educational activities, and office tools related to STI prevention, screening, and treatment.

NPWH Educational Activities

Office Tools

Additional Materials/Resources from NPWH and our partners

For additional information and resources, please visit www.npwh.org.