The Importance of Genetic Counseling and Testing 05/27/2009 Knowledge is power. The more you know about something, the better prepared you are to make wise decisions about it. This is especially true when you are talking about medical conditions.
It has now been established that knowledge of genetics can make a significant difference in the medical management of patients and their families, especially in terms of the cancer surveillance and follow-up.
Genetic counseling is a method by which very detailed medical history is gathered about you and your family to determine the likelihood if the cancer is inherited or not. Following that process, recommendations can be presented for follow-up where needed, including genetic testing and cancer screening options. Genetic counseling not only helps the patient, but it can also serve as a valuable resource for the physician.
But there is yet another group genetic testing can help -- the family. Genetic testing affects everyone in the family not just the person being tested. If an individual has an inherited form of cancer, their children, siblings and cousins would have a chance to also develop an inherited form of cancer. Genetics is a family affair.
Knowing that an individual has a predisposition to cancer can alter his or her own medical management. For example, individuals with a known genetic leaning to breast cancer are recommended to have an annual MRI in addition to a mammogram. Such individuals would be counseled to initiate a cancer screening protocol at an earlier age. Likewise, individuals presenting with a strong family history of a hereditary colon cancer syndrome such as Lynch syndrome should begin having colonoscopies every one to two years between the ages of 20 and 25.
Often individuals are concerned about insurance coverage and confidentiality of genetic information. Genetic counselors work with laboratories to determine insurance benefits including pre-authorization for the patient. Thus, the patient is able to know ahead of time whether there is any out-of-pocket expense. To set your mind at ease, there are stringent federal and state laws protecting those in a group health insurance plan against discrimination.
You could benefit from genetic counseling if you have:
• a personal history of early onset cancer, diagnosed under the age of 50 (especially, breast, ovarian, colon, thyroid and uterine).
• been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age.
• been diagnosed with more than one primary cancer.
• been diagnosed with cancer at any age and have two or more relatives on the same side of the family with the same type of cancer or associated cancers (i.e. breast and ovarian or colon and uterine)
• been diagnosed with an unusual cancer (bone cancers, leukemias, sarcomas)
• a prevalence of predisposition mutations i.e. Ashkenazi Jewish.
• a family member with a known genetic predisposition to cancer (i.e. BRCA 1 or 2 mutation)
Genetic counseling at Battle Creek Health System can turn complicated genetics knowledge into practical information for you and your family.
For more information please, contact the Cancer Genetics and Risk Assessment Center at The Cancer Care Center at Battle Creek Health System (1-877-662-4363).
About Genetics Counseling at Battle Creek Health System
The program offers:
• Genetic testing
• Genetic counseling
• Risk assessments
• Cancer screening recommendations
Counseling and testing can assist individuals, families, and their physicians:
• Determine the likelihood of the cancer in a family being inherited or passed down from generation to generation.
• Provide options for early detection and risk reduction for future cancers for the individual and family.
• Assist cancer survivors with future methods of prevention.
Consider genetic testing if you:
• Had a diagnosis of cancer under the age of 50.
• Have been diagnosed with more than one type of cancer.
• Have been diagnosed with cancer and have more than two relatives on the same side of the family with the same type of cancer.
• Have a family history of a known genetic condition.