Cancer Genetics Program
For an initial genetic evaluation:
Fax for referrals: 401-444-3288
For an appointment at the High Risk Hereditary Cancer Syndrome Clinic:
Fax for referrals: 401-444-3913
The Cancer Genetics Program provides counseling and testing for people who may be at risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are due to inherited, or genetic, factors. Some families share a common change, or mutation, in a gene that may increase the risk of developing particular cancers. These mutations are inherited, passed from generation to generation. The types of cancers can vary even within the same family. The program helps at-risk individuals make informed decisions in accordance with their health care needs, preferences, and values.
Genetics evaluation and counseling with a genetics professional involves an analysis of an individual’s personal and family history to determine the risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome. Typically, this evaluation involves a genetic counselor or physician (a geneticist or an oncologist) with specialized training in medical genetics. During this appointment, the genetics professional will discuss.
- Your personal and medical history and cancer screening history
- Your family history of cancer
- Risk assessment for a hereditary cancer syndrome
- Appropriate genetic testing options based on your history
- Benefits and limitations of genetic testing
Genetic counselors are licensed professionals with a Master’s degree in genetic counseling. They can counsel patients about inherited cancer syndromes, the degree of risk for that cancer, and the implications of and options for addressing that risk. With counseling, a patient is better able to make decisions regarding genetic testing, as well as screening, prevention, and treatment options as indicated.
Genetic testing involves collection of a sample of body fluid (blood or saliva), which is then tested to look for variants (mutations) in genes that are linked to a heightened risk of cancer. This can be completed if the individual meets the standard criteria and decides that he or she would like to proceed.
Even if someone declines testing, he or she could still benefit from counseling and risk management strategies if there is a clear family history of cancer.
Why is genetic testing important for cancer?
If someone has inherited an increased risk for cancer, there are many options available for early detection or cancer risk reduction. Determining if you are at risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome can provide information that can help with planning regarding:
- Cancer screening and surveillance options
- Medical management decisions
- Diagnostic and treatment options
- Identification of at-risk family members
If you are found to have a definite high risk for cancer due to a confirmed hereditary cancer syndrome, you will be referred to our high-risk hereditary cancer syndrome clinic.
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