Cancer Genetics

Genetic Cancer Risk Evaluation and Cancer Genetic Testing

You can take a proactive approach to managing or preventing cancer by undergoing a Cancer Genetic Risk Evaluation. In addition to determining the level of risk of specific cancers, the evaluation includes counseling and education regarding risk, medical management recommendations and if appropriate, genetic testing.

You may benefit from a cancer genetic risk assessment if you have a personal and/or family history of:

  • Cancer at a young age, i.e. breast, uterine, or colon cancer before 50
  • Triple negative breast cancer before age 60
  • More than one breast cancer with 1st diagnosis before 50
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Personal history of breast and ovarian cancer at any age
  • Male breast cancer or aggressive prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Ashkenazim Jewish heritage with a history of breast, ovarian or pancreas cancer
  • Personal history of uterine and colon cancer at any age
  • More than 10 colon polyps
  • More than two melanomas, especially if 1st diagnosis before 50
  • More than one cancer diagnosis in one person
  • Multiple generations of family members with similar cancers

Did You Know...

Most cancers are not inherited; they usually develop sporadically, most often in older adults. Approximately 10% of the time, however, inherited gene alterations (mutations) are the reason a cancer develops. Genetic testing is useful in determining whether a mutation increasing the risk of cancer is present.

Scheduling Your Consultation

The first step is to obtain a referral from one of your physicians. After your referral is received, you will be contacted by Jete Imwalle, Program Assistant. Jete will ask you to complete a questionnaire documenting your personal medical history and your family cancer history. Once your questionnaire is returned, Ms. Imwalle will go over any questions and discuss insurance coverage for genetic services. She will then schedule your consultation.

Your Cancer Genetic Risk Evaluation

Your initial visit (approximately 90 minutes) is a consultation with our genetic counselor, Melissa Bitanga, MGC, CGC. Melissa will review your personal and family history in detail. She will explain how this information is used to assess your risk of developing cancer and whether genetic testing is recommended for you or another family member. If genetic testing is recommended, Melissa will describe possible test results and the implication of test results for you and your family members. Following the information and education about hereditary cancer and genetic testing, you will decide whether you want to undergo testing. Genetic testing is a personal decision….it is never required.

If genetic testing is not appropriate, Melissa will explain why. She will provide individualized medical management recommendations based upon your risk evaluation.

Genetic Testing

If testing is suggested and you are ready to proceed, you will be asked to supply a small blood or saliva sample to obtain your DNA. Your sample will be collected on site and then sent to a specialty laboratory. The laboratory will analyze your sample looking for mutations (alterations) in your DNA. Depending on the number of genes analyzed, and insurance requirements, test results arrive on average, in two to four weeks. When results become available, you will return to have a second meeting with Melissa (30-60 minutes depending on the result). During this visit, your results will be explained, questions answered and specific medical management recommendations provided. Examples may include increased cancer screening exams (i.e., breast MRI, more frequent colonoscopies), risk-reducing medication and in some cases, consideration of preventive surgery.