Is Genetic Counseling for Cancer Right for Me?
If cancer runs in your family, genetic counseling may help determine if you are at risk.
Most cancers happen randomly and are common in the general population. However, about 5-10 percent of all cancers are due to genetics. Genetic testing can tell you whether you carry a genetic change (or mutation) that can increase your chance of developing cancer. With the help of our genetic counselor, you can learn if you are at risk for having a genetic change and if so, how you can further reduce your chances of getting cancer.
What is a genetic counselor?
Genetic Counselors are trained professionals with masters degrees who work to provide you and your family with the most accurate and up-to-date information about you and your family’s cancer risks. At St. Francis, our genetic counselor provides a comprehensive risk assessment that includes:
Who may benefit from oncology genetic counseling?
- A review of your family medical history and patterns of cancer
- A review of your own medical history
- A discussion of your risk for hereditary cancer syndrome and personal risk of developing cancer
- A review of medical management to reduce risks of developing cancer
- Options for genetic testing, including the pros and cons of testing
- Arrangements for genetic testing, including insurance pre-authorization and coverage of test
- An interpretation of test results
- Referral to physicians and other medical resources, if needed
- Options for spiritual support and guidance that reflect the beliefs and values of you and your family
You should consider genetic counseling, and possibly genetic testing, if any of the following statements apply to you and/or family members:
The pros and cons of genetic testing
- Developed cancer before the age of 50
- Developed more than one type of cancer.
- Relatives on the same side of the family had similar types of cancer, such as breast, ovarian, colon or uterine cancer.
- Rare types of cancers, such as male breast cancer
- Developed 20 or more colon polyps
- Family of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
- If you are worried about your risk of developing cancer based on your family history
If you choose genetic testing for an inherited cancer syndrome, it’s important to realize that a positive test result does not mean that you will definitely get cancer, but your risk is increased. The same thing is true for a negative test result: although your risks may be reduced it does not mean that you will not develop cancer. Our genetic counselor will explain your risks of developing cancer before and after any genetic testing.
There are numerous pros and cons for genetic testing. For example, knowing that you’re not at high risk can help you stop worrying. On the other hand, knowing that you have a higher risk of cancer could cause you stress and worry.
If you find that you are at higher risk, that knowledge can change your medical management for earlier cancer screening/detection to decrease your chances of developing cancer. Your doctor will also know better what to check for during your medical exams, which can lower your stress.
Our genetic counselor can help you weigh the pros and cons of genetic testing so you feel comfortable and confident in making an informed decision.
For more information
- To learn more about oncology genetic counseling or to make an appointment at Franklin, call our oncology genetic counselor at (414) 447-2221.
- Visit our Health Library to research cancer topics.