Genetics and risk assessment clinic
The Community Cancer Center partners with the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center to provide a Genetics and Risk Assessment Clinic. The clinic provides counseling, genetic testing and surveillance recommendations to help you determine if you are at risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome.
Cancer and genetics
Heredity can play an important role in the development of certain cancers. Medical research has increased understanding of the link between genetics and cancer. We now know that certain types of cancer are more likely to run in families, such as melanoma, breast, ovarian, uterine, colon, pancreatic, stomach, prostate, and some endocrine tumors.
Alterations, or mutations, in certain genes may increase a persons risk of developing cancer over their lifetime. Genetics alone do not determine a person's risk; many other factors influence the development of cancer, including diet, exercise, and exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke and tanning beds.
While genetic testing is a powerful tool in preventing cancer, it is not the only tool. Some people with a genetic risk may never develop cancer, while others without a genetic risk do. It is important to reduce your cancer risk in all areas of your life.
The family connection
If you are concerned about your personal or family history, a risk assessment may be helpful. Family history of a disease does not always mean your risk is high, but genetic testing may be able to help you understand your individual risk factors.
Unlike most other medical tests, hereditary genetic tests can reveal information not only about the person being tested but also about that person's relatives. The presence of a harmful genetic mutation in one family member makes it more likely that other blood relatives may also carry the same mutation. Our genetic nurse practitioners will help you understand how your test results may affect other family members and how to talk to your family about your test results.
Four components to a genetic risk assessment
Initial assessment: before your appointment, gather as much information as you can about your family's medical history. You'll meet with a genetic nurse practitioner to complete a thorough family history. Based on this history, you receive education about reducing your disease risk factors and information regarding hereditary syndromes along with genetic testing. The benefits and risks of genetic testing, possible test results, and how those results may affect you and your family are discussed at length.
Genetic test: genetic testing is not appropriate for everyone. If you choose to have testing done, a DNA sample is obtained and sent to a specialized lab.
Post-test education: results of genetic testing are reviewed with you in detail. Our genetic nurse practitioners will discuss the test results and help you understand what this means for you and your family.
Ongoing support: your genetic risk assessment journey doesn't end with an initial assessment or genetic test results. Whatever your genetic risk may be, we provide referrals for everything from lifestyle changes to appropriate medical providers. Our goal is to do everything we can to reduce your risk and that of your loved ones.
The Genetics and Risk Assessment Clinic places the highest priority on maintaining our patients' confidentiality. No one except your medical provider has access to your records without your consent.
If you choose to have genetic testing, most health insurance companies cover part or all of the testing costs. Insurance coverage is always verified before proceeding with genetic testing.
Is genetic testing for you?
The specialty of genetics is constantly changing and UnityPoint Health has dedicated genetic professionals to assist you and your family navigating this complex path. We are partnering with the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center to offer a brief questionnaire to help determine if you could be a candidate for genetic testing.