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Understanding the Genetic Risk of Cancer

If you have a family history of cancer, you may be wondering, “Do I have a genetic risk for cancer?” Approximately 5 to 10 percent of cancers may be due to an inherited gene mutation. This is known as hereditary cancer or inherited cancer, and is passed from parent to child.

ProMedica Cancer Institute’s cancer genetics program provides risk assessment for appropriate individuals as well as testing and education for at-risk patients.

The ProMedica Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genetics Program at the Hickman Center provides a risk assessment for appropriate individuals as well as testing and education for at-risk patients.

Family history and identification of certain traits are important in looking at predisposition into inherited cancer risk. Identifying these traits is the initial step in looking at screening and risk-reducing strategies. These proactive measures allow for earlier detection and treatment of cancers and improved outcomes.

Am I a candidate for genetic testing?

By knowing your risk, you can work with your physician on early detection and prevention. If you or your family has any of the following, you may be a candidate for genetic testing:

  • Bilateral breast cancer
  • Breast cancer prior to age 50
  • Ovarian cancer (at any age)
  • Colorectal cancer prior to age 50
  • Family with several individuals with cancer at a young age
  • Endometrial cancer prior to age 50
  • Male breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish decent with breast cancer at any age
  • Relative with a BRCA gene mutation

How does the ProMedica Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genetics Program work?

If you or your physician believes you are an appropriate candidate for a genetic risk assessment, you will be referred to genetic services within the medical oncology department at the Hickman Cancer Center on the ProMedica Flower Hospital campus. You will be asked to provide detailed information regarding the cancer diagnoses in your family, so it’s helpful to prepare this ahead of time.

The genetic risk assessment involves a consultation with a certified genetic counselor and possibly a physician. During this time, your family history and medical history will be reviewed. The providers then discuss options for you and your family. These include further genetic testing and possible changes to medical screening procedures and frequencies, in addition to other risk reducing options.

If genetic testing is deemed appropriate, we will order the testing. When the results are available, you will again meet with the genetic counselor to discuss the results and recommendations. The results and recommendations will also be sent to your referring provider and your primary care provider.

Are genetic tests covered by insurance?

Most health insurance plans pay for these tests, but not all do. We will help with the preauthorization process and determine the level of insurance coverage available for your testing.

Does genetic testing really make a difference if I already know I have a family history of cancer?

Yes. Genetic testing for inherited cancers helps you and your doctor understand your true risk so you can make the best choices for preventive medical care.

Is genetic discrimination prohibited by law? Does law prohibit genetic discrimination?

Yes. Federal law prohibits discrimination based on genetic information. Most states have additional laws that prohibit such discrimination.

Who can gain access to my genetic test results?

Genetic test results are strictly confidential. Even when insurance plans pay for testing, the insurer does not receive the results. Under no circumstances, will patient results be given to any party without the patient’s written consent.

Who is the most appropriate person to first have genetic cancer testing in my family?

The individual diagnosed with cancer is the most appropriate first person to be tested. However, if this person is unavailable for testing, an unaffected family member can also be tested.

Where can I get more information?

If you are interested in learning more about your hereditary risk for cancer, or would like to request a referral or schedule and appointment, contact the certified genetic counselor at ProMedica Cancer Institute.

Contact a genetic counselor

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