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As we learn more about cancer with every passing year, we learn more about how the genes we inherit from our parents can place us at risk for various types of cancer. When cancer is diagnosed, it is important to consider whether family members are at risk, too. Genetic counselors at the Hollings Cancer Center are masters-level trained and certified through the American Board of Genetic Counseling, assuring the public of qualified, professional care.
A genetic counselor at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center can help answer these questions. We offer consultations to people in many different situations:
- Individuals who have cancer
- Individuals who had cancer but are in remission
- Individuals with a family member previously diagnosed with cancer
What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing involves generally a blood sample that looks for changes in a person’s genes. These changes in certain genes may lead to an increased risk for cancer. Therefore genetic testing results may be helpful in personalizing cancer screening recommendations.
Indications for Genetic Consult
- Individuals with cancer (diagnosed at a younger than average age, usually before age 50).
- Developing more than one cancer. For example, developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Cancer developing in multiple relatives. For example, when cancer is found on the same side of the family.
- Rare cancers or tumors (such as male breast cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, pheochromocytoma) or individual with multiple colon polyps.
- Having a known pathogenic variant or mutation (positive genetic test result) for a cancer susceptibility gene. It is helpful to let us review a copy of the original genetic test results or your relative’s genetic results before your scheduled appointment.
Preparing for your Visit
Please complete the online family history questionnaire before scheduling your appointment.
To best interpret what your family history means, we need accurate family history information. It might be helpful to contact extended relatives as they can verify any details that you may not know about. It is important to list all your relatives, those who have cancer and those without cancer. The more detailed the family history, the more accurate the risk assessment and screening recommendations.
Our goal is to empower you to make the best informed decision regarding screening and preventative care. It also helps us recommend the best genetic test for you, but we need your help. If you or anyone has already completed genetic testing, it is helpful to forward a copy of your results or your relative’s results before your scheduled appointment. If available, any relevant medical records such as pathology reports, oncology reports, and/or colonoscopy reports would be helpful to bring.
What to Expect
The first visit can take anywhere from one to two hours. A second visit may be indicated to discuss results of genetic tests or review of additional personal and family history information. Your genetic counselor will review the following:
- benefits and risks of genetic testing
- family & patient impact
Genetic testing is not required for a cancer risk assessment. It is a personal choice, and testing may not necessarily be useful for everyone who receives genetic counseling. We can refer you to appropriate medical specialties and community resources. We are here to support your decisions in the context of your personal values, beliefs and goals.
Scheduling an Appointment
For all patients wishing to meet with a genetic counselor, we require a physician or primary care provider (PCP) referral. Once you have completed the questionnaire, please call 843-792-9300 so we can schedule your appointment.
Patient Referrals: Please have the patient complete an online family history questionnaire or provide us with the patient’s email so we can send them the questionnaire. Our fax number for referrals and pertinent medical records can be faxed to 843-792-1190. Physician referrals for cancer genetic consultation can be made online or by calling MEDULINE at 843-792-2200.