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Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and MD Anderson

Genetic Counseling and Cancer Risk Assessment

Early detection is one of the best weapons against cancer. One in three women and one in two men will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Regular screenings can help identify many cancers in their earliest stages when they can be treated successfully and often cured. The cancer risk assessment program at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center is designed to help individuals and their families understand their risk for cancer and to take steps towards early detection and prevention of their risks.

Medical research suggests five to 10 percent of cancers stem from a hereditary cancer syndrome - an abnormal gene that increases a person's risk for cancer. While that may sound small, it equals approximately 76,500 to 153,000 new cancers each year in the United States.

What is Involved in Cancer Risk Assessment?

  • Collecting a detailed personal and family medical history
  • Assessing a person's risk of developing cancer based on his or her history
  • Determining if this history is suggestive of an inherited cancer syndrome
  • Providing patient education, facilitation and interpretation for both clinical and research genetic testing (if indicated)
  • Development of a personalized plan aimed at prevention and early-detection of cancer for the patient and their family
  • Psychosocial support to assist communication between patient and family
  • Identification of women at high risk for developing breast cancer who could benefit from additional high risk screening and/or prevention options

What Would Warrant a Cancer Risk Assessment for Me?

  • One or more family members diagnosed with:
    • Breast, colon or endometrial cancer under age of 50
    • Ovarian cancer at any age
    • More than 10 colon polyps or colon polyps developing before the age of 40
    • More than one cancer diagnosis in an individual
    • A familial mutation in a hereditary cancer gene
    • A rare cancer (ie, medullary thyroid, retinoblastoma,  male breast cancer, adrenocortical carcinoma, sarcoma, paraganglioma, pheochromocytoma)
  • Three or more family members diagnosed with cancer
  • A clustering of cancers that are known to be genetically related (ie, breast and ovarian, colon and endometrial, melanoma and pancreatic, etc.)
  • Breast or ovarian cancer and Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry
  • Concern about cancer risk and wanting to learn more about their options

Does Insurance Cover Genetic Counseling?

Most insurances plans cover the cost of genetic counseling and genetic testing (if medically indicated), including Medicare and Medicaid. There are both federal and state laws that make discrimination based on a genetic mutation illegal. Health insurance cannot consider a gene mutation a pre-existing condition.

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