If cancer runs in your family, when do you need genetic services?

Lisa Michels
Family Medical History

There are many features that can be present in a family that would indicate a referral is needed for genetic services. The following is a general (partial) checklist of characteristics that may indicate an increased risk of familial cancer or a heritable cancer syndrome. The symptoms of genetic diseases may resemble other conditions or medical concerns. Always consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and a complete list of characteristics.

Family history

  • A family history of multiple cases of the same or related types of cancer
  • One or more relatives with rare cancers
  • Cancers occurring at an earlier age of onset than usual (for instance, colorectal under the age of 50 years) in at least one family member
  • Bilateral cancers (two cancers that develop independently in a paired organ, for example, both kidneys or both breasts)
  • One or more family members with two primary cancers (two original tumors that develop in different sites)

How genetic services can help

Genetic services can provide the following:

  • Information about the significance of your family history in terms of your risk of developing cancer and the chance that you have a cancer genetic syndrome.
  • A diagnosis of a cancer genetic syndrome by physical examination and/or genetic laboratory testing.
  • Details about the availability of genetic testing for cancer risk and the pros and cons of such testing.
  • Details about the chance for the cancer genetic syndrome to reoccur in the family and individual relatives’ chance of having and passing on a mutation in a cancer susceptibility gene.
  • Recommendations for the management and treatment of the cancer genetic syndrome.
  • Support groups for the cancer genetic syndrome.
  • Connections to other families who have a similar, or the same, disorder.

What is genetic testing

Genetic testing for cancer risk is used to determine if a genetic change (mutation) is present in genes that increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

  • Cancer genetic testing is a benefit under many insurance plans, including Medicare. Prior authorizations are not required, and are completed by the genetic laboratory.
  • When testing is available, recommendations are based on personal and family cancer history.

Agnesian Cancer Care offers cancer genetic risk assessment services. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (920) 926-4100. No referral is required.

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