Identify Cancer Risk Through Cancer Genetic Counseling

All cancer is caused by genetic mutations. Some mutations occur during the course of our lives and can be caused by the food we eat, what we drink, the air and smoke we breathe, or exposure to toxins like asbestos, plastics or radiation. However, some individuals are born with a genetic mutation that predisposes them to cancer. This mutation may be inherited from either a mother or a father.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers is proud to offer two cancer genetic counselors to anyone potentially at risk for hereditary cancers. Our cancer genetic counselors offer assessment and counseling for those who are at risk for developing cancer. They can help make informed decisions about which genetic tests to get based on family history. They also work with you to develop a plan of action should your risk assessment reveal a predisposition to a certain cancer type.

Cancer genetic counseling can help people discover inherited variants in a person’s genes that predispose them to cancer and other diseases. Not all of these genetic variants are harmful, but those that contribute to about 5-10 percent of all cancers, making early discovery a powerful tool for patients and the physicians who treat them. It is also important to note, the presence of these genes does not mean someone will develop cancer, but they do increase the risk. Testing to find if someone carries a harmful variant in one of these genes can confirm if the condition is the result of an inherited syndrome. Genetic testing can also determine whether family members who have not yet developed a cancer may have inherited the same variant as a family member who is known to carry a harmful variant known to lead to cancer.

Meeting with a Cancer Genetic Nurse Practitioner

People concerned about whether their family history puts them at risk for cancer should consult with a cancer genetic counselor. A cancer genetic counselor offers assessment and counseling for those who are at risk for developing cancer. They can help make informed decisions about which genetic tests to get based on your family history. They also work with you to develop a plan of action should your risk assessment reveal a predisposition to a certain cancer type.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers’ cancer genetic nurse practitioners, Claudine Bae, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC and Barbara Caldwell, MSN, APRN, who is 1 of only 9 healthcare professionals in Nevada to receive their training from an intensive cancer genetic risk assessment program at City of Hope, offer thorough consultations and put together comprehensive medical care plans tailored to the individual and their family.

Our cancer genetic counseling services include:

  • Personal and family medical history evaluation
  • Risk assessment using pedigree analysis and computerized risk prediction models
  • Genetic education and counseling
  • Genetic testing facilitation

Initial genetic counseling appointments are usually 60 – 90 minutes long; follow-up counseling sessions vary in length.

Genetic testing is more informative when it starts with a family member who has had a history of cancer.  If someone has a family history of cancer, we recommend, when possible, the family member with cancer have the genetic counseling first to identify with more certainty if the cancer is due to an inherited genetic variant.

If a person in the family has already been found to have an inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome, through cancer genetic counseling, additional family members who could have inherited the variant should consider genetic testing. This holds true even if they have not had a cancer yet. Knowing about these risks may help prevent a future cancer.

Signifiers of Hereditary Cancer

Cancer genetic counseling and risk assessment is appropriate for anyone with a family history indicative of a hereditary cancer syndrome. Possible signifiers of hereditary cancer are:

  • Any cancer diagnosed younger than the age of 50
  • More than one close family member diagnosed with either the same type of cancer or related cancers (for example: prostate and uterine cancer, breast and ovarian cancer)
  • Diagnosis of rare cancer or discovery of a rare tumor
  • Diagnosis of two or more primary cancers in the same person

Screening is encouraged for individuals with any personal or family history of:

Breast Cancer

  • Diagnosed at or before age 50
  • In two or more close relatives before age 50
  • Bilateral, first cancer before age 50
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) before age 40
  • In any male family member at any age

Breast and Ovarian Cancer

  • In any female family member at any age
  • In two close relatives at any age, one of each cancer

Ovarian Cancer

  • In two close relatives at any age

Colorectal and/or Endometrial Cancer

  • Diagnosed at or before age 50
  • Diagnosed in two or more close relatives, with one diagnosed before age 50
  • Diagnosed in three or more close relatives at any age
  • Colorectal cancer with endometrial cancer in same female family member
  • Colorectal cancer or endometrial cancer, one of each cancer in two close relatives at any age
  • Personal or family history of ovarian, small bowel, ureter or renal pelvis cancer
  • Multiple polyps of the colon

Screening is recommended for individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish decent with a personal or family history.

Cancer genetic screening is especially helpful for women as 72 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA-1 mutation and about 69 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA-2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 80. Women with this gene are also susceptible to pancreatic cancer.

With regard to men, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes have been linked to and prostate cancers. There are concerns about passing on that defect to children. If a man carries a BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene, each of his children may have a 50/50 chance of carrying the gene.

How Is The Actual Test Performed?

The genetic testing being performed in our medical offices requires saliva (buccal) sampling. It is a simple procedure and takes only minutes. An oral rinse process obtains the DNA from the lining of your mouth, which is then processed in the laboratory for analysis.

How Do I Get My Results?

After meeting with a cancer genetic nurse practitioner, Comprehensive will schedule a follow-up appointment two to three weeks after your test. In some cases, people may decide that they do not want to know yet, and that is fine. When you are ready to receive the results, we will provide them to you and fully explain all of the implications of a positive, negative or inconclusive result. The field of human genetics is rapidly growing, and new information is discovered at a frequent pace. Even so, genetic testing does not detect all causes of hereditary cancer. And a negative result is most helpful when there is a known mutation in the family.

Benefits of Cancer Genetic Counseling

The benefits of early detection through cancer genetic counseling become even more magnified when comparing those numbers with the national average of 12 percent of all women who will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives.  An additional factor of concern, that can be found and account for in screenings, is women with BRCA-2 have increased chances of getting breast cancer in their other breast, after having had cancer in one breast.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

To schedule an appointment with one of Comprehensive’s cancer genetic nurse practitioners, please call 702-730-1746.


The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.