The Angelo P. Creticos, MD, Cancer Center at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center offers a Cancer Risk Evaluation Program — one of only a few programs in the Chicago area. Here, a specially trained genetic counselor provides testing, evaluation and advice on genetic risk factors.
Our genetic counselor can help you decide what, if anything, you should do if you find out you have one of the genes that increases your cancer risk. Ann Mauer, MD, chief of medical oncology and medical director of the cancer center, oversees the Cancer Risk Evaluation Program.
What to Expect
A board-certified and licensed genetic counselor will evaluate your cancer risk by taking a detailed family history, going back three generations. Your counselor will also look at other risk factors, such as lifestyle and environmental factors.
Then, your counselor can determine if you should have a blood test to look for potentially harmful changes, or mutations, in your genes that can cause any of hundreds of types of hereditary cancer.
Look Toward a Healthy Future
If you learn that you do carry mutations in a cancer gene, your counselor and Dr. Mauer will talk with you and work with your primary care doctor on prevention and risk-reduction strategies based on personal and family history.
They may advise additional screening or suggest preventive surgery or medication. In addition, they can help you talk to family members who may also be carrying the same inherited susceptibility. For example, if a woman has BRCA1 or BRCA2, the team can meet with her mother, sisters and daughters to test and recommend interventions for them.
Even if you choose not to have genetic testing, Dr. Mauer and our genetic counselor will counsel anyone with concerns about developing cancer.
Who Needs Genetic Counseling?
The experts at the cancer center recommend considering cancer risk assessment to identify hereditary cancers if you have a personal or family history of:
- A cancer diagnosis younger than age 50
- Multiple cancers (in one individual)
- Bilateral cancers or rare cancers
- A clustering of cancers in the same family, such as colon and uterine or breast and ovarian cancer
- Multiple cancerous colon polyps
- Medullary thyroid cancer (at any age)
You also might want to consider cancer risk assessment if two or more relatives from the same side of your family have had the same cancer, or if multiple generations have had cancer.
We recommend considering cancer risk assessment for people in Ashkenazi Jewish families who:
- Have been diagnosed with breast cancer younger than age 50
- Have been diagnosed with breast cancer at any age if they have a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer
- Have a personal or family history of ovarian cancer
Of course, there are always exceptions to these suggestions, so talk with your primary care physician if you have any questions. You can also call the cancer center at 773.296.7089.
About Our Genetic Counselor
Melody Perpich, MS, LGC, is a board-certified and licensed genetic counselor with more than 20 years of experience. She provides comprehensive counseling and education to patients undergoing genetic counseling.