Genetic Counseling

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

MAY 16, 2017

As the science has exploded, the role of genetic counseling in cancer care has also grown. It was not long ago that genetic counseling for cancer patients really meant testing for the BRCA genes that raise a woman's chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. There are now many more identifiable genes, and much more that can be learned. The question hovers, however: what can be done with the information and when is it helpful to know?

For example, I have a patient who has tested positive for the PTEN mutation that raises her risk of a number of cancers. This means that her doctors have suggested that she undergo regular screening for several of them, and she feels increasingly that she is too much at the hospital and too focused on cancer possibilities. Unlike some genes that guarantee illness, e.g. Huntington's Disease, cancer mutations increase risk, but do not signal inevitability.

From Cancer Net comes this brief article and a link to an excellent podcast:

Genetic Counseling and Cancer: Now and in the Future

http://www.cancer.net/blog/2017-05/genetic-counseling-and-cancer-now-and-future

Genetic Counseling and Cancer: Now and in the Future

An individual’s risk of developing some types of cancer can be increased by specific genetic changes, or mutations, which are passed down from parents to their children. This increased risk is called hereditary cancer risk.

Genetic testing will allow you to learn if you have genetic mutationscurrently known to be linked to hereditary cancer risk. It will not tell you if you will get cancer, only whether you have a higher risk of developing cancer. The results of genetic testing can also help guide decisions about screening or treatment options. But the decision to be tested is complex, and learning the results can bring up many different emotions. Luckily, genetic counselors are here to help.

Tiffani DeMarco is a certified genetic counselor and co-manager of the Cancer Genetics Program at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. In this expert podcast, she explains how genetic testing has evolved over time and answers some common questions about the role of a genetic counselor.

  • Who are genetic counselors, and what happens during the process of genetic counseling for hereditary cancer risk? [1:28]

  • What are some signs of hereditary cancer risk? [2:24]

  • What are some of the options currently available for genetic testing? [3:59]

  • How can genetic counselors be involved throughout a person’s medical care? [7:33]

  • Is genetic testing covered by health insurance? [11:10]

  • How can genetic counseling help family members of someone with cancer? [13:04]

  • What are some ways genetic testing might change in the future? [15:36]

An individual’s risk of developing some types of cancer can be increased by specific genetic changes, or mutations, which are passed down from parents to their children. This increased risk is called hereditary cancer risk.

 

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.