While some cancers happen by chance, there are contributing factors for some that can increase an individual's risk of being diagnosed with cancer. Heredity is one factor that can play an important role in the development of certain cancers, such as breast, colon, ovarian and endometrial.
Having knowledge of such genetic alterations in a family can allow individuals to make informed decisions regarding cancer prevention. Through genetic counseling, screenings, surgeries and additional medical management options, the Wendt Regional Cancer Center helps patients gain a better understanding of their risk for developing cancer.
What is Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling enables individuals to educate themselves about their risks for cancer based on your family history. During your genetic counseling session, you will meet with a trained genetic counselor to help you and your family understand your inherited cancer risk. Based on your history, you will receive education about reducing your risk for cancer and information regarding genetic testing. The benefits and risks of genetic testing, as well as possible test results, will also be discussed.
What to Expect During a Genetic Counseling Session
Genetic counseling sessions typically take between 1-2 hours. During this time, you will discuss your medical history and family history. To ensure you receive the most accurate assessment of your cancer risk, it's important to come prepared with your family history of cancer going back as far as three generations. To help gather this relevant information about your family's history of cancer and determine your individual cancer risk, a questionnaire will be sent to you prior to your appointment. You can expect to see questions like:
- Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with two or more types of cancer?
- Do you have multiple family members that have been diagnosed with the same form of cancer?
- What age were family members diagnosed with cancer?
- At what ages did any family members pass away from cancer?
It's essential to not withhold any information you think might be beneficial to your counselor. Something that may seem minor to you could be a red flag for your counselor, who will in turn help you prevent and care for a potential cancer diagnosis.
In addition to the initial assessment done during your first counseling session, our services include three additional components:
- Genetic Testing - This is not right for everyone. If you do choose to have genetic testing done, a simple blood test is performed.
- Post-Test Education - Our staff will help you to understand your individual results, as well as the steps you'll need to take to care for yourself in the future.
- Ongoing Support - Once your assessment and or testing is complete, The Wendt Regional Cancer Center is available to do everything possible to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Who Should Consider Genetic Counseling?
Individuals who have a personal and/or family history that includes any of the following may benefit from a genetic counseling session:
- A family member diagnosed with cancer at an early age, usually 50 or younger
- Multiple family members diagnosed with the same type of cancer
- Two or more types of cancer have been diagnosed in the same person
- A known genetic abnormality in a family member
Why Should I have Genetic Counseling?
One of the primary goals of genetic counseling is to clarify hereditary cancer risks. This information may be beneficial to you and your family. Genetic counseling also provides information and options so you can make an informed decision about genetic testing and your cancer screening and/or management.
What is the Cost of Genetic Counseling?
The Wendt Regional Cancer Center does not charge a fee for genetic counseling. However, there is a cost for lab work and specific genetic testing. When you schedule a genetic counseling session, it is not mandatory to continue with genetic testing. These decisions are left to the individual seeking additional care. If genetic testing is desired, the Wendt Regional Cancer Center does provide genetic testing. If you choose to have genetic testing done, most health insurance companies cover part, or all, of the testing costs. Concerns about insurance coverage and genetic discrimination are also discussed before proceeding with genetic testing.
Meet our Genetic Counseling Team
Audrey Brown, MS, LCGC
Audrey Brown, MS, LCGC, is a certified genetic counselor, who works with patients at the Wendt Regional Cancer Center. She graduated with her Masters in Genetic Counseling from the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus.
When asked why she chose to become a certified genetic counselor, Audrey said, "Genetics is a rapidly evolving field that is always keeping us on our toes. I love to continue learning as we make more discoveries in the field, and it is satisfying to use the information in ways for patients and families to keep themselves as healthy as possible."
Audrey is motivated each day by knowing the services she provides can truly change people's lives. Her message to patients is, "The topic of genetic testing can often sound overwhelming, and to some, a little scary. However, it is my job to help you understand it to the best of your ability, so that you can make the best decision for you."
In her free time, Audrey enjoys skiing, rock climbing, hiking, board games and hanging out with her dogs.
Shana Coker, RN, MSN, AOCNS, ARNP
Shana Coker, RN, MSN, AOCNS, ARNP, is a Genetic Nurse Practitioner that works with patients at the Wendt Regional Cancer Center. She graduated with her RN diploma from St. Luke's (Sioux City) School or Nursing and her Bachelor's of Science in Nursing and Master's of Science in Nursing from the University of Iowa. She chose to become a Genetic Nurse Practitioner, because she liked the extra science of oncology and genetics.
Shana is motivated by knowing each day provides an opportunity to learn something new. When asked how she would describe her care, Shana says she likes to provide an opportunity for patients to tell their story. "Most of my patients have lives that have been shaped by their experiences with cancer. Beyond helping them understand and manage their risk, I like to talk about the impact cancer has had on them and their family, which can be extremely helpful for some people."
In her free time, Shana enjoys watching and going to sporting events, listening to music, reading and spending time with family and friends.
Finley Hospital Confidentiality
Finley Hospital places the highest priority on maintaining our patients' confidentiality. No one has access to your health or genetic information without your written consent. Records of your cancer risk counseling and genetic testing are kept in a secure file, separate from your medical records.
Finley's Cancer Care
Finley's Wendt Regional Cancer Center offers a broad range of services for patients and their families – from cancer prevention and screening through treatment. We understand that a cancer diagnosis can be difficult. Our caring, experienced staff offers warmth, compassion and a willingness to listen to your concerns, because you matter to this world and we want to show you just how much.
For more information, please fill out the form at the right or call the experts at Wendt Regional Cancer Center at (563) 589-2468.
Learn more about our other services:
Oncology Nurse Navigator