Genetic Testing & Counseling at the Lipson Cancer Center
Can Gene Testing Shed Light on Your Cancer Risk?
Knowledge gained from the genetic revolution is clearly impacting the medical care of cancer patients and their families. In fact, scientists have been able to clone genes associated with familial cancers such as breast, ovarian, colon and melanoma. At the Lipson Cancer Center at Rochester General Hospital we offer counseling and genetic testing for cancer risk susceptibility.
Determining Your Risk
Some cancers are inherited, but these account for only a small percentage of cancers overall. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that hereditary cancer susceptibility testing be offered to people with a high likelihood of a positive test. This often includes individuals who have a strong family history of cancer, onset of the disease at an early age or rare tumors that suggest of a familial cancer syndrome. For example, a woman who is aware that more that one woman in her family has developed breast cancer would be advised to undergo breast cancer genetic testing. Comprehensive pre- and post-test counseling are provided to help the individual correctly interpret the test results and get proper medical management.
Genetic testing for cancer risk is a multistep process. First, individuals are counseled about the biology and genetics of cancer, inheritance risks, the benefits and limitations of the test results, insurance and confidentiality issues, the psychological impact and options future for medical management after testing completion. Then, each individual must carefully consider the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing before deciding to proceed with testing.
The strongest argument supporting genetic testing is that a positive test result provides risk information for individuals and their families. At-risk individuals then have the opportunity to develop cancer prevention programs with their physicians, which include timely screenings and early intervention strategies. Studies suggest that genetic test results can provide significant psychological benefits as well. A negative test result can alleviate undue anxiety and uncertainty about cancer risk and any future risks to offspring. It may also help the person avoid any unnecessary medical treatment or surgery.
Individuals must understand that cancer technology cannot detect all mutations and that some mutations may not be significant. A negative genetic test result must be interpreted cautiously in the context of the person’s personal and family history. Increased anxiety, depression, guilt, hopelessness and strained relationships are potentially harmful reactions to genetic testing that require careful consideration.
The Bottom Line
Genetic discoveries are rapidly evolving. Technology makes it possible to identify individuals who have inherited gene mutations that substantially increase the risk of developing certain cancers. The decision to undergo genetic testing must be an informed and personal one. Cancer programs like that at the Lipson Cancer Center are the ideal setting for identifying, counseling and testing at-risk populations. They encompass a variety of resources and clinicians with expertise in the field of genetics and cancer who will guide individuals through the genetic testing process.
For more information about genetic testing, contact the Lipson Cancer Center at (585)-922-4020