Genetic Counseling

Our goal is to help our patients by determining whether there is a hereditary basis to their cancer and/or the cancer in their family, allowing them to make the informed medical decisions that are best for them. This may include recommendations for additional cancer screening, options to lower risk for cancer, and potentially additional options for treatment of certain cancers.

What happens at a cancer genetic counseling visit?

When a patient meets with a Genetic Counselor, she/he will be asked questions regarding general medical history, any personal history of cancer, and the family health and cancer history. The Genetic Counselor will then provide an assessment of the family history, and discuss any possible genetic components. Recommendations may be made relating to cancer screening, preventative options, and/or genetic testing.

What is genetic testing?

Most genetic testing is done on a blood or saliva sample, from which certain genes (DNA) are looked at in a lab. This type of testing is done to help determine whether there is a genetic cause to a cancer in the patient and/or his/her family.

Goals of cancer genetic counseling:

  • Assessing the cancers in a family, and whether these may have an underlying genetic cause or link.
  • Determining whether any hereditary cancer genetic testing may be helpful for a patient or family, discussing this in detail, obtaining informed consent, and coordinating this testing if desired.
  • Helping to determine whether a patient and/or his/her relatives may be at increased risk for certain cancers.
  • Discussing options for cancer prevention, screening and management.
  • Translating genetic test results into practical information for a patient and/or family.
  • Providing support to the patient during this process.

What are some reasons patients are seen for cancer genetic counseling?

  • Recent diagnosis of cancer
  • Personal history of cancer
  • Family history of cancer

In general, cancer is more likely to have a genetic link if there is:
  • Early age (<50) of diagnosis in a patient or relative
  • Multiple cases of cancer in a family
  • More than one primary (separate) cancer within a person

The most is known about the genetics of cancer of the breast, colon/rectum, ovaries, uterus and thyroid.

Genetic counselors at The Queen’s Medical Center have Master’s level training and national certification from the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC). The focus of the Queen’s Genetics Center is on cancer genetic counseling. Genetic Counselors also serve patients related to prenatal and non-cancer indications.

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