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Cancer Center of Santa Barbara Offers Genetic Counseling Services

Hereditary Cancer Risk Counseling Program Helps Patients and Families with a History of Cancer Better Understand and Manage Their Risk


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Up to 10% of all cancer cases are due to an inherited predisposition to cancer. At the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, individuals have the unique opportunity to meet with a cancer genetic specialist to discuss their concerns and determine their cancer genetic risk.

The Cancer Center has on staff a full-time certified genetic counselor who offers Santa Barbara County residents the opportunity to meet confidentially to discuss their concerns and determine their hereditary cancer risk. This service provides individuals at increased risk for hereditary cancer with peace of mind and the information they need to make informed medical decisions.

“Genetic counseling offers patients and families with a history of cancer a unique opportunity to better understand and manage their risk for developing the disease,” said Megan Hooper, M.S., C.G.C., cancer risk counselor for the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. “Our goal is to provide confidential information, reassurance, and support for local residents who may be at increased risk for hereditary cancers.”

All cancer is genetic, but not all cancer is inherited. Cancer results from mutations, or changes in a person’s DNA, that usually accumulate over many years. Inheriting certain genetic mutations can increase a person’s risk for developing specific types of cancer, and at younger ages than average. These genetic changes can be passed down from generation to generation through the mother’s or father’s side of the family to both men and women.

Recent advances in medical research have lead to the identification of these gene mutations that may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

At the first 90-minute appointment, the genetic counselor reviews the patient’s personal and family history and assesses their personal cancer risk. They discuss the genetics and inheritance of cancer, individualized prevention strategies to reduce cancer risk, and the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing. If the patient decides to undergo genetic testing, a blood sample will be taken and analyzed. Results are confidential and are discussed with the patient and a cancer genetic team, if necessary. Additionally, there are state and federal laws that protect a person from insurance discrimination based on these genetic test results.

Hereditary risk counseling may be especially helpful for people with a personal or family history of:

• multiple family members affected by cancer of any type, especially in two or more generations

• cancer occurring at an earlier age than is usually seen (such as breast or colon cancer before age 50)

• more than one type of cancer diagnosed in one person

• cancer in both breasts

• male breast cancer

• an inherited cancer predisposition already identified in the family

8 several rare or unusual cancers

•anyone with questions regarding the inheritance of cancer

Physician referrals are not required, and many insurance plans cover the services.

For more information about the Hereditary Cancer Risk Counseling Program, please call (805) 898-2204 or visit www.ccsb.org/Patients_Family/Programs_Services/Hereditary_Cancer_Genetics/

Since 1949, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara has remained in the vanguard of comprehensive outpatient cancer treatment with personnel from some of the nation’s renowned medical programs, the latest science and technology, and integrative wellness and patient support programs. The independent and charitably supported Cancer Center of Santa Barbara has earned a reputation for compassionately serving those on the journey to live with, through, and beyond cancer. www.ccsb.org

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