Advance with MUSC Health

Knowing is Better, Says DNA Participant

Advance With MUSC Health
December 12, 2022

DNA Screening Tests Bring Clarity to One Woman's Health Journey and Motivate Her to Be Proactive

Taking the reins and making things happen is second nature to Francine Floyd Murray. A full-time application analyst for MUSC Information Solutions, she also owns Excellence Realty Group real estate company in North Charleston. Along with juggling two careers, Murray is an elder and worship leader at United Worship Center in North Charleston.

When she learned MUSC Health was offering free, confidential genetic testing for 100,000 South Carolinians through a project called In Our DNA SC, she signed up.

"Why not?" Murray asks. "Why would I not want to know about something that could affect my health, something I could prevent by going to the doctor and getting the care I need?"

In Our DNA SC allows participants to screen their DNA and learn how it affects their health, including finding out their risk of many common diseases and conditions. A community health research project, it may help improve access to personalized care and support research discoveries for our community in South Carolina.

A DNA Discovery

Francine Floyd Murray, In Our DNA SC participant. 

Francine Floyd Murray

Fortunately, Murray was able to glean critical information about her health from the screening. After completing a simple test, Murray learned she carries a gene mutation called MSH6. People with an abnormality in MSH6 have Lynch Syndrome, which is an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer.

"When the results came back and I spoke to an MUSC genetics counselor, I was glad that I had done the genetic test because I tested positive for something I would otherwise never have known about," explains Murray. "Having this gene puts me at higher risk for certain kinds of cancer, so the screening let me know I'm susceptible and will have to get tested regularly."

Knowing Equals Control

"I can't change the test results," she says. "But it has made me aware and ready to take charge. There are things I can do. I know if I want to prevent some of these cancers that are affected by excess weight, I need to keep my weight in control. There are things I can change, that I am in control of — my blood pressure, my cholesterol, my A1C. I can do something about those. Now that I know that some cancers can be avoided by diet and exercise, I can take action to stay healthy."

And take action she has, without delay. "I used to say, 'Yeah yeah, I'll do something.' Now it's a priority if I want to live longer," she says. "And I do want to live longer! I have children and grandchildren I want to see graduate from high school and college and be a part of their lives for as long as I can."

Working with her physicians and health professionals to get the care she needs, Murray says MUSC staff have been helpful and accommodating, providing guidance and support for all needed appointments and tests as well as preventive care. "My primary care doctor reached out to let me know he was there for me, to answer any of my questions, and all my providers offered resources," she says. "I'm getting all my important screenings and tests. My doctors and everyone at MUSC made sure I didn't get overwhelmed."

For Murray, her DNA test result was not a death sentence but an awakening, a reminder to live better in order to live longer. Her new awareness and devotion to improved health are paying off. "My numbers are going down every time I do my check-ins with my medical team. It's working!"

Since Murray carries the gene mutation and could pass it on, she shared her results with her adult children. "I'm taking it slowly," she says. "It took me a little bit to be able to talk to my children about it." In response to her mom's results, one of her children has been tested. Murray plans to continue to share her DNA screening results with family members. Several of her friends and coworkers have been inspired by her story and also participated in the screening program.

"The most important takeaway is knowing is better than not knowing," she says. "Why would I want to die of something I could prevent by going to the doctor and getting the care I needed? Many cancers and other illnesses are curable when caught in time. Knowing is better!"

MUSC's community health research program In Our DNA SC is open to all South Carolinians. In addition to finding genetic risks for certain cancers and heart disease, the screening also identifies genetic ancestry and traits. The secure, privacy-protected genetic and research database is expected to inform researchers about what may cause certain diseases and how to treat them more effectively, helping to improve the standard of health care for all in South Carolina and beyond. You can sign up for the program through your MUSC MyChart. To learn more, email the study team or call 843-876-0582.