Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer
Approximately 10% of all cancers are hereditary, which means they are caused by a damaged gene inherited from your mother or father, one that can be passed on to your children. Sarasota Memorial’s Genetic Education and Counseling Program provides evaluation, risk assessment, genetic testing and post-test counseling for breast, ovarian, colon, pancreatic, prostate, melanoma and many other hereditary cancer syndromes.
Knowing your risk for developing hereditary cancer — and doing everything you can to lower it — can make a big difference for you, your family and your future healthcare decisions. Genetic counseling and testing enable you to make educated decisions when choosing treatment options, making lifestyle choices to maintain health or even exploring preventative surgeries.
Genetic Cancer Education and Counseling
Sarasota Memorial’s board-certified and specially trained genetic counselors assess personal and family medical histories in order to recognize whether the cancers in your family are hereditary. They will help you navigate the assessment and testing process, understand genetic testing results and create an actionable risk-management plan.
If you’re concerned about your hereditary cancer risk, make an appointment with one of our board-certified genetic counselors, specialty trained in oncology genetic counseling; Nicole Wood, MS, or Katherine Zimmerman, MS.
Physician referrals are not required for counselor visits, but you may need authorization from your insurance provider to cover the cost of the appointment.
To make an appointment or request more information, please call 941-917-2005.
Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer
We test a small sample of your saliva or blood, looking for mutations in the genetic material of your white blood cells. The results will show whether you are pre-disposed for developing specific hereditary health conditions and genetic cancers.
Finding out whether or not you have inherited-cancer genes enables you to make informed decisions about your health, work with your doctor and genetic counselor to create a personalized risk-management or treatment plan, and relieve unnecessary worry over the unknown for yourself and your family.
Common Hereditary Cancers
Common hereditary cancers include breast, ovarian, colon and endometrial cancer. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, be aware that those who have Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome have a greater chance of developing breast, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate and melanoma cancers at a young age.
Another common genetic disorder is Lynch Syndrome. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with colon or endometrial cancer, be aware that those with Lynch Syndrome, or Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC), have a greater chance of developing colorectal, endometrial and other types of cancers at a young age.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What's the first step I should take to find out whether I have hereditary cancer or another genetic health condition?
The first step toward understanding your risk is making an appointment with a genetic counselor. Before your appointment, collect information about your personal and family medical history: Who in your family has had cancer? Where was the cancer (breast, colon, etc), and how old was your relative when they were diagnosed? Then, complete the Personal and Family History of Cancer form, and be sure to take it to your appointment. If any of your relatives have undergone genetic testing, ask for a copy of their test results, if possible. The more information you can provide, the more accurate your risk assessment will be.
2. What is a genetic counselor?
A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional with specialized graduate-level training in medical genetics and counseling. They can help you understand your risk for genetic health conditions and hereditary cancers. They provide genetic and oncology information about any hereditary conditions you’re at risk for and will evaluate the chances that you may pass inheritable diseases along to your children.
3. Who should see a genetic counselor?
If you have a personal or family history of early-onset cancers (occurring under the age of 50), certain types of rare cancers or other risk factors related to genetic conditions, you would benefit from making an appointment with a genetic counselor. Take the family history quiz to help determine identifying family risk factors.
4. What happens during a genetic counseling session?
A genetic counselor will take a detailed family medical history to gauge your risk for developing an inherited condition. If you are at high risk, the counselor will educate you about the disease(s), discuss genetic testing options, coordinate the testing, interpret the test results and work with you to create a customized, actionable plan for health maintenance and lowering your cancer risk. All visits, personal and family information, counseling and genetic-test results are confidential.
5. How should I prepare for a genetic counseling session?
Before your genetic counseling session, download and complete the Personal and Family History of Cancer form, and find out as much as you can about your family medical history. Talk to family members and try to find out as much as you can about your family medical history, including medical information for your siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, children and grandchildren.
6. Who should I contact with questions?
To make an appointment with an SMH genetic counselor or get your hereditary-cancer questions answered, please call Sarasota Memorial’s Genetic Education program at 941-917-2005.