Early Detection and Prevention

Early Detection and Prevention

Early Detection and Prevention

Genetics: Does cancer run in your family?
Much like eye color and skin color, increased cancer risk can be passed down in families like a trait. The clinical cancer genetics program at Medical City provides genetic counseling and testing for hereditary cancer families. This testing can help high-risk individuals and families before cancer occurs

What is genetic testing and what can it tell you?
Cancer genetic testing looks for the presence of an inherited gene mutation or alteration that increases the risk of developing cancer. It tells us why some families develop cancer more frequently than others, which individuals in a given family are likely to develop cancer in the future, and what types of cancer we should screen for in order to decrease cancer risk.

When is genetic testing recommended?
Genetic testing is recommended for individuals with early onset cancers (usually before age 50), more than one cancer diagnosis, a strong family history of cancer—especially rare cancers, such as male breast cancer or fallopian tube cancer. Individuals with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry from central or eastern Europe also are encouraged to seek evaluation, especially those with a family history of cancer.

What kind of testing is available and what is involved?
We conduct testing for all types of inherited cancer syndromes such as breast, colon and ovarian, and include those with childhood onset, such as retinoblastoma and von-Hippel-Lindau syndrome. The actual testing requires little more than a simple blood draw, but the process involves genetic counseling prior to testing. If a mutation is identified, the counselor will review current recommendations for medical management.

How are results of genetic testing used?
The results of genetic testing are most effectively used when shared with both physicians and family members. Sharing genetic information with physicians helps to ensure appropriate management. Positive test results confirm high-risk status and give family members the opportunity to be proactive in reducing cancer risk.

If a gene alteration is identified, what can I/my family do to decrease cancer risk?
There are currently a number of options for hereditary cancer families. These include more frequent or earlier screening to increase the likelihood of early detection, taking medications to reduce the likelihood of cancer development and, in some cases, removing at-risk tissue before cancer occurs. Genetic counselors work closely with physicians to make sure that hereditary cancer families are managed according to the most recent guidelines for high-risk families.

Will my insurance cover the cost of genetic testing?
Insurance companies often cover most or all of the costs of genetic testing. Eligibility for coverage depends on a combination of medical and family history. Having an early diagnosis of cancer before, age 50, and/or a strong family history of cancer increases the likelihood of insurance coverage.

How can I obtain more information?
If you have questions concerning genetic counseling, cancer risk assessment or insurance coverage of genetic testing, the cancer genetics office may be reached by calling 972-566-3955. 

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