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Genetic Cancer Risk Assessment Program

The Cancer Risk Assessment Program at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital offers genetic consultation and testing by board-certified, licensed genetic counselors for individuals and families concerned about their personal and family history of cancer. This information may be helpful for surveillance and medical management of those who are at risk for cancer.

Cancer develops as a result of changes in the genes that control cell growth. These gene changes are inherited in approximately 5% – 10% of families with a history of cancer. This means that the gene changes are passed from one blood relative to another.  Not everyone who inherits a gene change will develop cancer.  However, those who do inherit the gene change have a much greater chance of developing cancer in their lifetime and at an earlier age.

Common cancers associated with a hereditary cancer syndrome include:

Cancer Genetics Program brochure
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  • breast cancer
  • colon and rectal cancer
  • endometrial (uterine) cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • melanoma

Hereditary Cancer Syndromes

  • Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC) is caused by changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Women with an inherited change in BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at a significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in their lifetime. Men with an inherited change in BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as prostate cancer. Additionally, in some families, there may be an increased risk for other cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and melanoma, associated with an inherited change in BRCA1 or BRCA2.
  • Cowden Syndrome is caused by changes in the PTEN gene. Individuals with Cowden Syndrome are at increased risk for breast, uterine and thyroid cancers. There also is an increased risk for multiple, tumor-like growths involving the skin, mucous membranes, intestine or brain.
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome is a rare condition caused by changes in the p53 gene. Individuals with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome are at increased risk for numerous types of cancers which can develop in childhood, adolescence or adulthood. Sarcomas, breast cancer, leukemia, brain tumors and tumors of the adrenal gland are associated with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome.
  • Lynch Syndrome (sometimes referred to as HNPCC or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer) is caused by changes in one of four genes – MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 and PMS2. Individuals with Lynch Syndrome are at increased risk for colon, rectal and uterine cancers as well as ovarian, gastric, urinary tract, bile duct/gallbladder, small bowel and brain cancers.
  • Familial Adenomatous Polyposis(FAP) is caused by changes in the APC gene. Individuals with FAP are at an increased risk for developing numerous polyps in the colon and other parts of the gastrointestinal system. As a result, individuals with FAP are at a significantly increased risk for colon cancer.
  • Familial Melanoma is caused by mutations in the p16(CDKN2A) gene. Individuals with familial melanoma are at an increased risk for developing melanoma in their lifetime. In some families, there may be an increased risk for pancreatic cancer.

Who Should Consider Genetic Risk Counseling? 

Individuals whose family history includes one or more of the following characteristics of genetic cancer are candidates for genetic counseling:

  • cancer diagnosis before the age of 50
  • at least one family member having two or more different cancers
  • two or more immediate family members with the same type of cancer
  • several generations having the same or a related type of cancer
  • family members of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (Eastern or Central European) having breast, ovarian or colorectal cancer
  • family member with a rare cancer, such as male breast cancer 

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Cancer Risk Counseling

Genetic cancer risk counseling assesses the likelihood that an individual will develop cancer, based on a review of the individual's family and medical history. Cancer risk counseling services include:  

  • a review of the role of genetics in cancer
  • a personal cancer risk assessment
  • discussion of appropriate screening tests and medical evaluations
  • if appropriate, a discussion of available genetic testing, including risks, benefits and limitations 
  • referral to other specialists as needed

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Genetic Testing

Genetic testing for cancer involves obtaining a small sample of blood to look for a change in the genetic material that may be associated with an increased risk for certain cancers. Genetic counselors help individuals make the best choices for themselves, based on the test results. All test results are kept confidential and are not released without written consent.

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Benefits of Genetic Counseling and Genetic Testing

Through genetic counseling and testing, individuals with an increased risk of cancer gain the opportunity to improve their health and quality of life by:

  • identifying one of the causes of cancer
  • identifying other family members who may benefit from cancer screening
  • identifying individuals and family members who are not at increased risk of cancer
  • facilitating a cancer screening schedule based on the latest genetic information
  • assisting individuals in deciding about risk-reducing preventive surgery

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Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA)

The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) is a federal law that prohibits employment and health insurance discrimination based on the results of genetic testing or family history. Under GINA, it is illegal to deny health insurance coverage or increase health insurance premiums based on the results of genetic testing or family history. GINA also prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire based on the results of genetic testing or family history.

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Make an Appointment

For more information about the cancer genetics services at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, or to schedule an appointment, call 708.684.3373.

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Additional Resources

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