Cancer Genetics Screening Program
The Cancer Genetics Screening Program offers a variety of programs and services, which include genetic counseling and testing, research and education.
Genetic CounselingMeeting with a genetic counselor can help people gain a basic understanding of genetics and disease. The goal of a counseling session is to help individuals understand that they may — or may not — have a high risk for developing a certain disease.
Genetic counselors are health professionals with a graduate degree in medical genetics and counseling. They provide information and support to individuals and families who have a genetic disorder, might be at risk for developing an inherited condition, or are concerned that they may have a child with an inherited disease.
Genetic counselors are trained to help people as they consider testing, when they receive the results and in the time afterward. They focus on empowering people with knowledge to ensure that they fully understand the ways genetics affect their lives. Genetic counselors translate technical and complicated knowledge into practical information.
The counselor will explain the genetics of cancer, gene mutation, how disease passes to family members, and the specific genes related to the form of cancer the patient is concerned about. They identify individuals at risk, analyze disease inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence, and discuss medical management options for the disease.
Genetic counselors also provide families with resources for information on specific genetic conditions and make referrals to other support services.
To help determine who is at risk for genetic disease, the counselor will obtain a thorough personal medical history and family medical history. This information is important in assessing a person’s risk for inheriting a disease or passing a disease to their children. In some cases, we may need to obtain information from other family members.
Genetic TestingGenetic testing can be used to help clarify a person’s risk for developing certain diseases. It can reveal if a person has a general risk or a high risk. When possible, it’s best to test a family member who is known to have cancer to determine the factors responsible for the disease.
The test typically involves drawing blood, or obtaining a saliva sample. In some cases, a tissue sample (e.g., cells from a tumor) may be obtained for testing as well.
The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person's chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder. Testing provides a probability of developing disease; it does not diagnose a disease in a person.
BRCA TestingIt is estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast cancers are inherited. Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with two genes called BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2).
The Cancer Genetics Screening Program offers an extensive review of personal and family health history, assessment of cancer risks and the likelihood of a BRCA mutation in the family, coordination and interpretation of genetic testing, personalized screening and management recommendations.
Post-test CounselingA genetic counselor will discuss the test results with you and explain what they mean for your health. When appropriate, the counselor will refer you to physicians at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin for further consultation.
Research StudiesIf current genetic tests are unable to clarify a person’s risk for a disease, a research study may be helpful in identifying a gene mutation. The Cancer Genetics Screening Program has access to ongoing local and national genetic research studies. Some individuals may be able to participate in various research trials. Participation may involve providing a blood and/or tissue sample to send to the study researchers.
DNA BankingBlood can be stored for testing at a future time, in the hope that a new test may become available in the future. A person with terminal cancer may wish to store blood for future testing to benefit his or her children.
Education and PreventionThe Cancer Genetics Screening Program offers lectures for healthcare professionals and the community. To request a speaker from the Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Speakers Bureau, please call 414-805-3666 (option 2). Our board-eligible and board-certified staff are also available to discuss prevention efforts, including recommendations for cancer risk reduction, screening and management.
Last Review Date: May 17, 2013
Online Editor(s): Shannon Krause