City of Hope's Cancer Screening & Prevention Program offers a comprehensive cancer risk assessment that focuses on family history and genetics, taking into account environmental and lifestyle factors. If indicated, patients can choose to use genetic testing to assist with identifying cancer-prevention strategies.
Genetic testing is a powerful tool, and raises many important issues for individuals and their families. The following are frequently asked questions and important information you should know before deciding if cancer risk testing is useful for you.
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What is genetic counseling?
Cancer risk genetic counseling entails consulting with a team of health care professionals (usually a genetic counselor, physician or nurse practitioner) to review personal and family history, help determine cancer risk, and provide recommendations to reduce cancer risk and detect cancer earlier.
What is the role of the genetic counselor?
A genetic counselor will evaluate the likelihood of a genetic trait that is responsible for cancer in an individual or his or her family and help people understand the genetic, medical, psychological and other issues related to genetic testing.
Genetic counseling before genetic testing helps individuals make a truly informed decision about whether testing is right for them. Similarly, genetic counseling after testing helps to explain the meaning and implications of the test result, including determining if further testing is necessary.
What is genetic testing for cancer risk?
Genetic testing for cancer risk is used to determine if a genetic change, called a mutation, is present in genes that predispose persons to developing cancer at an earlier age than would be expected. Having a predisposition to developing cancer does not mean you will definitely develop cancer, but it does increase your risk. Knowing this may enable you and your doctor to make health care decisions to prevent or reduce your chances for cancer.
What are the benefits of genetic testing?
Testing could identify who is at high risk for particular cancers and who is not. A person found to have a cancer-causing mutation could make health care decisions to prevent or lower his or her chances for cancer or help detect cancer at an early stage. A person who does not have the mutation that is responsible for cancer in their family may not need extra health care exams and tests and may be relieved to learn that they, and their children, are not at increased cancer risk because of this mutation. Genetic testing may help determine the cause of cancer for you or your family.