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Genetic Counseling for Cancer

By DMG Integrated Oncology Program

While cancers may develop by due to internal cellular changes, some individuals have a strong family history of cancer that may suggest an inherited predisposition. The most common inherited cancers involve those of the breast, colon and ovaries.

Cancer genetic counseling helps patients to make informed medical decisions based on their own personal risk assessment.  Genetic counseling can also help to provide the patient’s family with important cancer risk information. These interventions can have a significant impact on a person's life by allowing them to better manage their health and reduce their risk of developing cancer through increased awareness, screening and management. 

What to Expect from Genetic Counseling

  • Genetic counseling generally includes the following to assess a person's risk for developing specific cancers:
    • A review of medical history and other cancer risk factors (i.e. smoking)
    • Family history
  • An estimate of the likelihood that cancers in a family are related to a hereditary cancer
  • Recommendations for cancer screenings and other risk-reducing strategies
  • Discussion of the benefits, limitations and risks of genetic testing
  • Genetic test(s), if appropriate, and a follow-up meeting to discuss results

Would Genetic Counseling Be Helpful for Me?

Genetic counseling is appropriate for individuals with a personal and/or family history of:

  • Cancer occurring at a younger age than average (diagnosed younger than age 50)
  • Cancer in two or more first and/or second degree relatives on the same side of the family
  • Prostate cancer with family history
  • Rare type of cancer, such as male breast cancer
  • Multiple primary tumors (for example, a woman with two primary breast cancers, a woman with colon and endometrial cancer or a man with primary colon and stomach cancer)
  • Cancer in both breasts or multiple cancers
  • Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry with significant personal and/or family history of breast or ovarian cancer

Genetic Counseling Referral

For more information, please talk to your oncology provider, who can refer you to a genetic counselor at an area hospital.

Topics and Subtopics: Cancer & Women's Health

Learn more about:
High Risk Breast Clinic
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