Cancer Genetic Counseling

What is cancer risk assessment?

Cancer risk assessment is a consultation service for women and men who have concerns about their personal and/or family history of cancer. The patient is provided with personalized information regarding genetic influences, specific cancer risks and targeted screening and prevention options. The patient can expect the following at a cancer risk assessment appointment:

  • Collection of detailed medical and family histories
  • Review of relevant medical records
  • Education about genetic and non-genetic cancer risk factors
  • Determination of the probability of a hereditary basis to the cancer in the family
  • Cancer risk estimates for the patient and family members
  • Discussion of the availability, risks, benefits and limitations of genetic testing
  • Facilitation of the psychosocial adjustment to cancer risk and management choices
  • Discussion of the issues of insurance reimbursement and privacy

Cancer risk assessment is provided by health care professionals with expertise in both genetics and oncology. These professionals include genetic counselors, physicians and oncology nurse specialists who have received advanced training in cancer genetics and risk assessment.

Who may benefit from a cancer risk assessment?

Individuals with a personal and/or family history of:

  • Cancer diagnosed less than age 50
  • Two or more cancer primaries diagnosed in the same patient (e.g., breast cancer in both breasts or colon and uterine cancer)
  • Multiple family members affected by cancer
  • Certain rare cancers or tumors (e.g., medullary thyroid cancer; retinoblastoma; hepatoblastoma; male breast cancer; adrenocortical carcinoma; pheochromocytoma)
  • Known cancer gene mutation in family
  • 10 or more colorectal polyps of any histology

Identification of hereditary cancer susceptibility allows for implementation of potentially life-saving management strategies for those determined to be at risk.

Individuals found not to have inherited an identified hereditary predisposition, will be able to avoid unnecessary screening and surgery.

Cancer risk assessment may also benefit individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer, by providing information relevant to treatment decisions and follow-up care. In addition, individuals with a family history of cancer have been found to frequently overestimate their personal risks. For these patients, cancer risk assessment can provide reassurance and allow for appropriate modification of screening.

What is the Wisconsin Cancer Risk Program Network (WICRPN)?

WICRPN members, 2012
WICRPN members, 2012

WICRPN is a network of cancer genetic healthcare professionals who

  • Collaborate on the best practice of risk assessment and management
  • Identify and discuss actual or potential dilemmas in the realm of cancer genetics
  • Develop an intrastate support network for families impacted by hereditary cancer
  • Review current data and new developments in the rapidly changing field of cancer genetics
  • Establish a way for referring providers to identify quality cancer risk assessment programs
  • Explore network research opportunities
  • Facilitate cancer counseling of family members within the state.

To join the WICRPN email list, please contact WIGCA