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Published on July 06, 2018

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Genetic Counseling and Cancer

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

Several factors affect a person's probability of developing cancer, however, genetic counselors can assess your risk of inherited cancer. While most cancers are not hereditary, breast, ovarian, colon, uterine, prostate and some others can be. Genetic assessment and testing is helpful so you and your family can understand the role genetics plays in your risk of developing cancer and consider options to reduce your risk.

Cancer related genetic counseling can:

  • Determine if there is an increased risk.
  • Assess the probability of developing cancer.
  • Offer options for prevention and risk reduction.
  • Help patients of all ages.

How could seeing a genetic counselor benefit me?

Cancer genetic counselors can give you personalized information and care when it comes to your overall concerns about cancer and genetic health. Cancer related genetic counseling could benefit you if you have:

  • Immediate relatives (parents, children, sisters or brothers) with cancer.
  • Extended family members on the same side of the family who have related cancers.
  • Concerns about your risk of developing cancer.
  • Been diagnosed with early onset, rare or multiple types of cancer.
  • A genetic syndrome or a known genetic mutation that predispose you to an increased risk of developing cancer.

How should I prepare for my appointment with a genetic counselor?

Your personal and family medical history is important. You can prepare by:

  • Asking relatives about your family's medical history. If possible, get the most detailed account of cancers that have been diagnosed in your family, and the ages at which diagnosis occurred.
  • Gathering any medical records related to your concerns or cancer diagnoses.
  • Creating a list of questions you would like to ask your genetic counselor.

What will happen during my session with a genetic counselor?

An initial meeting with a genetic counselor usually is about an hour. Genetic testing and follow-up appointments may occur. Your initial counseling session may include:

  • Review of your personal and family medical history.
  • A cancer risk assessment for you and other immediate relatives.
  • Education about your concerns or diagnosis of cancer.
  • Information on genetic testing options.
  • Genetic testing (such as a blood sample) if indicated after the discussion.
  • Discussion of the meaning of possible genetic test results.
  • Information on risk reduction options.

If you have specific questions about genetic counseling or would like more information, please call the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at (608) 775-2385 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 52385.

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