Our understanding of the relationship between cancer and genetics has grown rapidly. Research is answering many questions about why some families have more cancer than others.
We know that certain cancers—including breast, colon, uterine, ovarian, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer—are more likely to run in some families. However, a family history of cancer does not always mean that you will develop cancer.
By understanding your risk for cancer, you can take steps to improve your health and reduce your risk. Knowledge of an increased risk for cancer can also help increase your chances for early detection and successful treatment.
Understanding Your Risk
Some people have a greater chance than others of developing cancer. This may be due to gene changes that can be passed on through the family.
Most cases of cancer are not inherited, they occur without a family history of cancer. In fact, nearly 90 percent of cancer is due to environmental, lifestyle and other factors, not genetics.
However, genetic testing can reveal the presence—or absence—of gene changes for cancers believed to “run in the family.”
What is Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling is a communication process between a specially trained health professional and a person concerned about the genetic risk of disease. The person’s family and medical history may be discussed, and counseling may lead to genetic testing.
Who Benefits from Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling may benefit an individual or family that has a history of cancer. The counseling and possible follow-up testing may be helpful in learning your risk for particular types of cancer, and will help us develop a personalized plan to monitor you and manage those risks. This may also help family members know if they are at increased risk for cancer as well.
You may benefit from genetic counseling and testing for inherited cancer if your family history includes:
- Cancer before the age of 50
- Two or more close relatives who have had the same type of cancer
- Cancer that has occurred in more than one generation
- More than one cancer in the same family member
- A close relative with a rare type of cancer
- Multiple different cancers in the same person
- Other factors such as multiple colon polyps
What Does the Genetic Counseling Program Offer You?
- Assessment – We will gather detailed information about your family’s health history, your own health history and your lifestyle to determine if you should participate in genetic testing.
- Education – We will meet with you to discuss the benefits and limitations of genetic testing. This is also a time for you to ask questions and receive answers.
- Testing – If you choose to proceed with genetic testing, we identify the appropriate test for you, coordinate your testing and notify you when the results are ready.
- Results – We will meet with you to discuss your test results, what they mean to you, and how they might affect your family members’ healthcare options.
If your results show that you have inherited a higher cancer risk, we can talk to you about managing that risk. If needed, we will be ready to discuss treatment plans, resource information and emotional support for you and your loved ones.
We will manage your genetic testing information the same way we handle all patient information — with strict and complete confidentiality. No one will have access to information about your genetic testing without your written consent. We can also provide you with information about protections in place to assure that employers and insurance companies do not discriminate based on the results of genetic testing.
Many insurance companies cover the cost of genetic counseling and testing. We can help you find out what your insurance will pay for.
How to Get Started
St. Francis Genetic Counselor:
Kimberly Brussow, MS, CGC
To schedule an appointment, call 308.865.7290.