Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment
Does cancer seem to run in your family? While family history is a risk factor for developing breast cancer, only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancer cases are hereditary, meaning that it's caused by a harmful genetic mutation passed on through a family.
Genetic counseling can help you learn about your cancer risks, the likelihood that your family's history of breast cancer is hereditary and the benefit and limitations of genetic testing.
At the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, we can help put your wondering mind to rest and give you the guidance and support you need to move forward.
Our Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment Program can help you understand the role that heredity and genetics play in cancer development. At the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, we offer genetic counseling for individuals with a personal and/or family history of cancer. The goal of our program is to prevent cancer, or to detect it as early as possible by identifying individuals at increased risk. Our team of experts includes a medical director, three genetic counselors, and a program manager.
What is Genetic Counseling?
Cancer genetic counseling is a process intended to help you and your family understand your chance of developing cancer. Hereditary cancers occur when a person is born with a mutation (gene change) in a gene which normally protects against cancer. Inherited risk may be passed from parent to child. Through genetic counseling and testing, we can determine if you or your family member's cancer is hereditary or more likely to be environmental. If a predisposition to cancer is found, the counselor will guide you through possible changes to your health management. A genetic counselor can also help you navigate the emotional, financial and social aspects of your test results.
Who are Genetic Counselors?
Genetic counselors are health professionals with Master's Degrees in genetic counseling and are certified by the American Board of Genetic Counselors. They are highly educated in all aspects of genetics and are trained to communicate complex concepts in understandable ways. Genetic counselors provide a critical service to individuals and families considering genetic testing by evaluating family history, and discussing the implications, limitations, and benefits of genetic testing. They work very closely with medical oncologists, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare providers.
What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing can be performed after evaluation of your personal and family history of cancer when appropriate. Genetic testing involves taking a blood or a saliva sample to screen for genetic mutations related to increased risk of cancer.
Genetic testing may not be right for everyone. You will have a chance to discuss your situation with your genetic counselor before making a decision.
Do I need Genetic Counseling before having Genetic Testing?
Yes, genetic counseling is crucial to understanding the purpose, possible results and implications of a genetic test. Many genetic testing options are available; genetic counselors have the expertise and tools to choose the most appropriate genetic tests, testing laboratory, and technology for each patient. Some insurance companies require genetic counseling prior to covering a genetic test, to ensure appropriate testing.
When to consider Genetic Counseling
You may benefit from meeting with a genetic counselor if:
- You or a family member have been diagnosed with cancer at a young age (under age 50).
- You or a family member have had more than one type of cancer. (Particularly breast, ovarian, colon, uterine, melanoma and pancreatic cancer.)
- There is a personal or family history of bilateral cancers. (i.e., breast cancer in both breasts.)
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and have a personal or family history of cancer.
- You are concerned that you might have an increased cancer risk.
Before scheduling your appointment, please complete the Family History Questionnaire (PDF). To make an appointment for genetic counseling or if you have questions, please call our genetics program at 480-323-1231. We are open Monday- Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. We are conveniently located inside the Virginia G Piper Cancer Center.
Please note insurance coverage varies.
Most insurance companies cover the costs of genetic counseling and testing. Some insurance companies may require a referral from your physician; our staff will notify you at the time of scheduling if needed. Each insurance company has different policies regarding coverage. If you choose to have genetic testing you will be informed about potential out-of-pocket costs.