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Published on April 17, 2017

Cancer-Related Genetic Counseling helps assess patient risk

Whether you have a patient with a family history of cancer or discover an abnormality on an exam, Gundersen Health System's Cancer-Related Genetic Counseling service can help identify hereditary cancer syndromes, offer screening recommendations and provide patients with peace of mind.

Becky Pabst

Becky Pabst, MS, CGC, Gundersen Genetic Counseling

"Several factors affect a person's probability of developing cancer; however, we can assess a patient's risk of inherited cancer," says Becky Pabst, MS, CGC, board-certified genetic counselor at Gundersen.

Genetic evaluation and counseling are available for patients of all ages who have:

  • A family history of cancer
  • First-degree relatives with cancer
  • Extended family members on the same side of the family with related cancers
  • Concerns about risk of developing cancer
  • Early-onset, rare or multiple types of cancer
  • A genetic syndrome or a known genetic mutation that predisposes them to an increased risk of developing cancer

"Our goal is to empower patients to make informed medical decisions by knowing their inherited cancer risks. This means providing patients with an easy-to-understand explanation of how genetics may affect their risk for cancer, and a personalized plan," explains Becky.

An initial genetic counseling session may include:

  • Review of the patient's personal and family medical history
  • Cancer risk assessment
  • Education about the genetic condition in question or a cancer diagnosis
  • Information on genetic testing options
  • Genetic testing, if indicated after the discussion
  • Genetic testing coordination and discussion of results
  • Information on long-term resources

While most cancers are not hereditary, breast, colon, uterine, ovarian and some others can be. Becky says genetic testing is useful when a pattern exists so family members can consider options to minimize their risk.

"As a genetic counselor, I'm here to help determine if genetic testing is necessary, to order the appropriate test and to interpret the results. I recommend counseling before and after any genetic test so patients can understand what can be done with the information. In addition, I always share my clinical notes and result notes with referring providers so it's clear what type of follow-up their patient needs," adds Becky.

Cancer-Related Genetic Counseling is a free service available in La Crosse. If a patient needs genetic testing, most health insurance plans cover some or all of the cost. Insurance coverage and billing will be discussed in the genetic counseling session.

To refer a patient or for a consultation, call Gundersen MedLink at (800) 336-5465 and ask for Cancer-Related Genetic Counseling.

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