Cancer is a widespread disease, affecting about 1 in 3 people in the United States1. A small subset of individuals faces higher odds: those with a genetic predisposition to cancer or a family history of cancer. To meet their specialized needs, the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network has established the Hereditary Cancer Risk Clinic.

“We started this clinic because of the increasing awareness of the role germlines — inherited mutations — play in cancer risk,” said Ann Maguire, MD, MPH, internal medicine physician and MCW faculty member. “We wanted to create a centralized medical home for patients to be carefully screened for multiple cancers.”

Patients Served at Hereditary Cancer Risk Clinic

The new clinic will serve three groups of patients:
•    Those with a known genetic risk factor
•    Those who do not have cancer but do have a family member with a genetic mutation
•    Those who are not aware of a germline mutation but have an extensive family history of cancer

Germline mutations are relatively rare, presenting in only about 10% of people with cancer. However, they raise the risk of developing more than one kind of cancer. 

Breast cancer development in a woman in her 30s, for example, is unusual at that early age, and testing might identify a genetic disorder for additional cancers,” Dr. Maguire said. “One mutation alone can increase the risk for ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Or, a man with a strong family history of breast cancer may inherit a gene that is not gender specific and places him at risk for breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.” 

Cancer Care Resources Under One Roof

Under one roof, the Hereditary Cancer Risk Clinic brings together an array of resources for people at risk, including genetic testing and counseling, cancer screenings, diagnostic imaging and lab tests, preventive lifestyle modifications, medical therapies to reduce cancer risk and prophylactic surgeries. If a new cancer is detected, patients are referred to specialists within the Cancer Network for treatment.

“Our goal with the clinic is to improve survival and quality of life,” Dr. Maguire said. “If we know someone is at high risk, we can detect and treat cancer at an earlier stage. Knowing about and monitoring risks helps us work toward the patient’s best possible outcome for our patients and their families.”