Everyone has some risk of developing cancer. Though the disease develops by chance in most cases, family history does play a part in affecting those chances. The genes you are born with could contribute to the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast and gynecologic cancers. If you have a family history of cancer, or if you’re unsure of your potential risks, a genetics specialist can help. Woman’s genetic counselor, Hillary Wienpahl, can help patients identify and understand potential hereditary contributors to cancer risk.
“Genetics are complex, but it is my job to help patients understand their genetics. Speaking with a genetics professional is important to make sure that you are being properly tested and that the results are being interpreted correctly.”
Hillary works collaboratively with a medical geneticist – an MD. “As a genetic counselor, I play a supportive and educational role for the patient,” she says. The MD performs an assessment, recommends testing if appropriate, and answers questions a patient may have about testing and results. The genetic counselor’s role is to help the patient navigate through the entire process: providing education about genetics and types of results, ensuring the patient feels comfortable and supported, making sure the patient’s needs are being met through a potentially complicated or intimidating process.
Most genetic tests involve a simple blood draw, which may be used to obtain a more precise estimate of your cancer risk. Genetic testing is not required for a cancer risk assessment; however, in some cases, it may help you and your doctor better decide the future of your medical care.
Determine if genetic testing is right for you is a personal choice that can be made at the time of the counseling session or at a future date. For more information or to get in touch with a genetic counselor, click here.