Cancer is thought to be the result of many factors, such as genetics, environmental exposure and lifestyle. Although the majority of cancers are not inherited, recent research has found that inheritance can greatly increase the likelihood of some cancers. Researchers have discovered that there is more cancer in certain families due to an abnormal gene that is passed from generation to generation.
Why have cancer risk counseling?
Some people with a significant family history, or with a family member who had cancer at an early age, may be worrying needlessly. After looking at your family history, it may be possible to take advantage of today’s technology of gene identification and testing to give you and your family a better understanding of your cancer risks.
Peace of mind If you are found to have the gene change that increases your risk of cancer, you can then use this knowledge to take measures to reduce this risk. This may relieve the uncertainty and anxiety you and your family have been living with.
Reducing Risks Knowing you are at risk is invaluable in helping you and your healthcare provider manage your care. In most cases there are three options for reducing cancer risk. These include increased surveillance, preventive medications and/or preventive surgery.
What should you expect?
You will be given a form to fill in concerning your family health history. You will then meet with the counselor who will take a careful family history and discuss with you the basics of cancer genetics, as well as any emotional, legal, or ethical concerns you may have. If you wish to proceed, you will sign a consent form and a blood sample will be drawn and sent to the appropriate laboratory for testing. Usually the lab will verify insurance coverage and inform you of any out of pocket expense prior to performing the genetic test. Since results cannot be given over the telephone, a return appointment will be made for disclosure of results.
The goal of genetic counseling and testing is to develop a personal risk management plan to prevent cancer development or to allow early detection, while potentially curable.