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Genetic Counseling for Cancer

At SSM Health, we understand that you may want to know your risk factors for developing certain types of cancers, so you can make empowered health decisions. We offer a cancer risk assessment that focuses on personal and family history, environmental and lifestyle factors, and genetics. The assessment evaluation, which includes counseling services, is directed toward individuals and family members who may be at an increased risk for hereditary cancer. These services are provided by genetic counselors (who work in coordination with medical oncologists) with advanced education in cancer genetics, hereditary cancer patterns and genetic testing resources.

Key Signs of Hereditary Cancer

Hereditary cancer, which represent about 5-10% of all cancers, results from a genetic mutation that was passed down from a parent. Some cancers such as bowel cancer and breast cancer may have a stronger genetic link than others.

Certain signs that cancer in your family may be caused by a genetic factor, include having:

  • One or more individuals diagnosed with cancer before the age of 50
  • Several cancer diagnoses, across generations
  • An individual with a rare type of cancer, such as male breast cancer
  • An individual diagnosed with two or more different types of cancer
  • A relative known to have an inherited gene alteration that causes cancer
  • One of the above risk factors and Jewish ancestry

Meeting With a Genetic Counselor

When you schedule an appointment with one of our trained genetic counselors, you will start to get the answers you’re looking for. Our genetic counselors will first assess your family’s medical history and determine if genetic testing is the logical next step. This may include:

  • Assessment based on personal medical and/or cancer history
  • Risk assessment using computer-generated risk models
  • In-depth review of family history of cancer for hereditary patterns
  • Identification and coordination of genetic testing services, if available and appropriate
  • Discussion of cancer genetics research programs, if available and appropriate

If your counselor finds that you may benefit from genetic testing, they will order a blood or saliva test to be sent to a genetic laboratory. The results of the test can take four to six weeks to receive. Whether your results are positive or negative, your counselor will discuss how you can manage your cancer risk, as well as your options for screening and prevention. Some of the topics you will discuss with your counselor are:

  • Disclosure and discussion of any genetic testing results
  • An explanation of benefits and limitations of genetic testing
  • Recommendations for strategies to decrease cancer risk
  • Ways to detect cancer early
  • Coordination of specialty physician referrals, as appropriate

Your counselor will also share your test results with your referring doctor to ensure the needed follow-up care is received.

Sometimes a proactive approach is the best approach. Genetic counseling appointments are covered by most insurance plans, but check with your insurance carrier first. Then find a genetic counselor near you and schedule an appointment today.

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