Genetic counselors are specially trained health care professionals with skills in medical genetics and counseling. Genetic counselors work in a variety of settings including cancer genetic risk assessment.
Genetic counseling for patients concerned about their cancer risk includes the following:
- Collecting a detailed cancer-focused personal and family medical history
- Assessing a person’s risk of developing cancer based on this information
- Determining whether the history is suggestive of an inherited cancer syndrome
- Providing patient education and answering questions about cancer risks, the option of genetic testing, and the risks and benefits of genetic testing
- Reviewing medical management options with or without genetic testing
- Providing psychosocial support to and facilitating communication between patients and families
- Communicating back to primary care/referring physicians so that the information from the risk assessment can be used to appropriately manage cancer risk
While most cancers occur sporadically, approximately 10% of cancers result from inherited mutations to “cancer predisposition” genes. Some of the more common inherited cancer syndromes include:
- Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome: breast, ovarian, prostate and sometimes pancreatic cancers.
- Lynch syndrome: colon, endometrial, stomach, small intestine, ovarian, ureter and kidney cancers.
- Familial adenomatous polyposis syndrome: multiple colon polyps; colon, stomach, bile duct and thyroid cancers.
Some other less common inherited cancer syndromes include:
- Cowden syndrome: breast, endometrial, thyroid cancers.
- Von-Hippel Lindau syndrome: tumors of the retina, brain, spine, adrenal gland and pancreas; kidney cancers.
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia 2 syndrome: tumors of the adrenal glands and parathyroid; thyroid cancers.
The primary goal of cancer genetic counseling is to identify individuals and families at increased risk of cancer for the purpose of promoting awareness, early detection and cancer prevention.
To make an appointment with a genetic counselor, please call (406) 238-2501 or 1-800-332-7156.