Genetic Counseling

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 Memorial Hermann provide assessments and counseling for individuals who may have an inherited susceptibility to cancer.

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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).

What to Expect at Your Appointment

Your assessment will be based on the information you provide as well as risk assessment models and the expertise of your health care professionals. If an appointment is scheduled, your genetic counselor will likely have contacted you prior to your appointment to collect information about your medical history and the medical history of your relatives such as your children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. This information will be used to assess your cancer risk during your appointment.

Here's what to expect:

  • You will meet with both a genetic counselor and a medical oncologist to discuss cancer risk assessment.
  • We will discuss your personal and family cancer history and your cancer risk based risk based on that information.
  • If you and/or your family history are suggestive of a hereditary cancer syndrome, you will be offered genetic testing, if available.
  • Regardless of whether you are offered genetic testing, we will discuss ways to help lower your cancer risk or take preventative measures.
  • We will coordinate your care with a team of leading physicians who utilize state-of-the-art and comprehensive care.
  • We will develop an appropriate and tailored cancer surveillance plan for your needs and help you navigate your care.
  • After your assessment is completed and your recommendations have been made, we will also address recommendations for your family members regarding their cancer risk based on our assessment and any recommended changes for screening or testing for them.

Initial genetic counseling appointments are usually 60-90 minutes long; follow-up sessions vary in length.

Learn More about Genetic Counseling

If interested in learning more about the Cancer Risk Genetics Program at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center please call (832) 325-7206 or fill out the form below to be contacted by an oncology nurse navigator.

Contact Us

For more information about Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, including how to get connected to our support services or an affiliated provider, please call (833) 770-7771 or fill out the form below to be connected to one of our Oncology Nurse Navigators.


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