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Who Benefits from Cancer Genetic Counseling

Who is a patient that may benefit from cancer genetic counseling?

Approximately 5-10% of cancers are hereditary and those individuals may benefit from genetic testing and a consultation with a genetic counselor. The following features are suggestive of a hereditary cancer2.

  • Usually early age of cancer onset (e.g. premenopausal breast cancer)
  • Multiple primary cancers in a single individual (e.g. colorectal and endometrial cancer)
  • Bilateral cancer in paired organs or multifocal disease
  • Clustering of same type of cancer in close relatives (same side of the family)
  • Cancers occurring in multiple generations of a family (suggestive of autosomal dominant inheritance)
  • Occurrence of rare tumor (e.g. retinoblastoma, ocular melanoma, duodenal cancer)
  • Unusual presentation of cancer (e.g. male breast cancer)
  • Geographic or ethnic populations known to be at high risk (Ashkenazi Jewish heritage)

It is important that individuals who are candidates for genetic testing undergo genetic counseling before testing to facilitate informed decision making and adaptation to the risk or condition. Genetic counseling allows individuals to consider the various medical uncertainties, diagnosis, or medical management based on varied test results, and the risks, benefits, and limitation of genetic testing.

2 – National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)