There are two primary risk factors for many cancers: lifestyle and genetic factors. Lifestyle factors refer to things you can control — such as whether you smoke, are overweight and exercise regularly. Genetic factors refer to cancer risk that you have inherited (are born with).
What is Genetic Counseling?
During a cancer genetic counseling session at Maryland Oncology Hematology, a physician will explain how heredity plays a role in certain cancers. The doctor will review your family history and provide information about the probability that you may develop a specific cancer or experience a recurrence of cancer you may already have. If you are at increased risk of developing a certain type of cancer, the doctor will explain your options for genetic testing that can confirm whether or not you have genes that increase the likelihood of developing cancer.
What to Expect from a Genetic Counseling Session
Genetic counseling sessions at Maryland Oncology Hematology typically last 45 minutes to an hour. The physician will present scientific concepts, in understandable terms, and focus on questions and concerns you have about your risk for developing cancer or an inherited cancer syndrome. The goal of genetic cancer counseling is to provide clear and clinically relevant information about your genetic risk factors in a supportive and comfortable environment.
Should You Undergo Genetic Testing?
Deciding whether or not to have genetic cancer testing (or a genetic risk assessment) is a personal choice that can be made at the time of the counseling session or at a future date. Our physicians and team of cancer specialists are here to help you determine if genetic cancer testing is right for you. After speaking with a physician, some individuals choose to pursue genetic testing. If tests confirm that they are at a heightened risk for certain cancers, they may be able to pursue preventive therapies. For example, women who have a specific gene that increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer may decide to have elective mastectomies to reduce the risk.
Other individuals may decide that they prefer not to know for sure if they are likely to develop a particular cancer. Our team will help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of undergoing genetic testing.
To make an appointment with an oncologist regarding genetic testing, please contact us at the Maryland Oncology location most convenient for you, in Bethesda, Brandywine, Clinton, Columbia, Lanham, Laurel, Rockville, Silver Spring or Wheaton.