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Your Health
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Genetic Counselors Play Key Role in Healthcare

Hereditary factors might increase cancer risk

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s genetic counselors Hannah B. Andrews, M. Ayanna Boyce and Danielle Sharaga.
Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s genetic counselors Hannah B. Andrews, M. Ayanna Boyce and Danielle Sharaga.   (Courtesy photo)

Genetic Counselor Awareness Day, Thursday, Nov. 9, is dedicated to helping the community understand the important role genetic counselors play in healthcare.

Genetic counselors are professionals who have specialized education in genetics and counseling to provide personalized support to patients as they make decisions about their genetic health.

The Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s Genetic Counseling Program in Santa Barbara has three genetic counselors on staff to help patients and families with a history of cancer better understand and manage their cancer risk.

Although most cancer is not inherited, about 5-10 percent of people with cancer have a hereditary form, or a predisposition to cancer. Hereditary cancers occur because of a change (mutation) in certain genes.

Pursuing genetic counseling may be beneficial to you and your family if:

» You or any of your relatives been diagnosed with cancer before age 50

» You or any of your relatives had more than one type of cancer (i.e. colon and endometrial cancer in the same person)

» You or any of your relatives had bilateral cancer (cancer in both breasts)

» You or any family members have rare cancers, such as ovarian cancer or male breast cancer

» The same type of cancer been diagnosed in two or more relatives

» Your family has a known hereditary cancer syndrome

» Your family history of cancer causes you to worry about the risk for you or your children

If genetic counseling is recommended, a first appointment will typically include:

Review of your personal and family history; assessment of your personal cancer risk; discussion of the role genes play in the development of cancer; prevention strategies to reduce your cancer risk; information about the risks.

Also, benefits and limitations of genetic testing; reassurance about confidentiality; support to make educated and informed decisions about genetic testing; and genetic testing facilitation, when appropriate.

Genetic testing for various inherited forms of cancer is also available at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center.

Deciding whether or not to pursue testing is a personal choice that can be made at the time of the initial visit or at a future date, the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center reports.

If an individual chooses to undergo genetic testing, a blood or saliva sample will be taken and analyzed. Results are confidential and discussed thoroughly with the certified genetic counselor.

To learn more, contact the Genetic Counseling Department at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, 879-5653.

— Kristen Adams for Ridley-Tree Cancer Center at Sansum Clinic.


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