Memorial Hermann offers cancer risk assessments, genetic testing, education and counseling for individuals at high risk for hereditary cancers such as breast, ovarian, colorectal and endometrial cancers.
Genetic counselors at Hermann and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School provide assessments and counseling for individuals who may have an inherited susceptibility to cancer.
What is Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling is defined by the National Society of Genetic Counselors as the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial assessment, counseling and genetic testing process. Genetic counselors can provide risk assessment and genetic testing to help patients better understand their likelihood of developing cancer. For a patient who has already been diagnosed with cancer, genetic counselors can help to determine whether there is an increased risk for another type of cancer and whether any family members are also at risk. Management guidelines exist for men and women who have an increased risk of developing cancer to either reduce the cancer risk or use screening methods to detect cancer at an early stage.
Criteria have been published to help identify families who may benefit from a referral to genetic counseling. The genetic information summaries on genitourinary, gynecological, skin and breast cancers describe the clinical features of hereditary syndromes associated with these cancers.
Hereditary Cancer Features
The following are features that suggest hereditary cancer:
- Unusually early age of cancer onset (e.g., premenopausal breast cancer).
- Multiple primary cancers in a single individual (e.g., colorectal and endometrial cancer).
- Bilateral cancer in paired organs, or multifocal disease (e.g., bilateral breast cancer or multifocal renal cancer).
- Clustering of the same type of cancer in close relatives (e.g., mother, daughter and sisters with breast cancer).
- Cancers occurring in multiple generations of a family.
- Occurrence of rare tumors (e.g., retinoblastoma, adrenocortical carcinoma, granulosa cell tumor of the ovary, ocular melanoma, or duodenal cancer).
- Unusual presentation of cancer (e.g., male breast cancer).
- Uncommon tumor histology (e.g., epithelial ovarian cancer).
- Rare cancers associated with birth defects (e.g., Wilms tumor and genitourinary abnormalities).
- Geographic or ethnic populations known to be at high risk of hereditary cancers. Genetic testing candidates may be identified based solely on ethnicity when a strong founder effect is present in a given population (e.g., Ashkenazi heritage and BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations).