Georgia Regents University Cancer Center has launched the area’s first dedicated cancer genetics clinic, so patients can find out if they are at greater risk and work proactively with their physicians to try to reduce that risk.
“Our role as genetic counselors is to discover familial patterns through a detailed history and, when appropriate, genetic testing. We counsel patients and their families with hereditary genetic mutations that increase their risk of cancer; and help provide preventive and supportive services,” said Mallory Hire, a genetic counselor at the GRU Cancer Center.
Families who may benefit from genetic testing and counseling include those who:
- Are diagnosed with cancer at a young age (less than 50 years);
- Have multiple close family members with the same type of cancer or related cancers;
- Have a rare cancer or unusual tumor;
- Have two or more primary cancer diagnoses.
As an example, women born with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancers at an early age—as well as an increased risk for several other cancers, including colon and skin cancer. By working with providers in the genetics clinic, family members can review their options, which include surgery and removal of the breasts, or drug therapies such as Tamoxifen, which has been shown to reduce risk by 50 percent or more. Or, if they are of child-bearing age, they may choose increased surveillance, including more regular clinical exams and mammograms.
During these decisions, the genetic counselor plays a significant role. “Our role is to make sure families are well educated about their risk and can make an informed decision about future treatments,” Hire said.
“Nationally, cancer centers are realizing the importance of an onsite genetics clinic to improve care for patients with hereditary cancers,” said Dr. Samir N. Khleif, Director of the GRU Cancer Center. “We are proud to be the first cancer center in the region to establish such a dedicated clinic, supporting our comprehensive and holistic approach by caring for patients and families with genetic cancers—and helping them cope with the many issues related to these types of cancers.”
The Commission on Cancer recently added “genetic counseling on site or by referral” to its list of standards for accreditation of cancer centers. In addition, in 2012, the Georgia Center for Oncology Research & Education held its first meeting of the Georgia Cancer Genetics Network, focusing on building awareness of how to prevent and reduce the incidence of genetic cancers through a statewide referral network.
To contact the GRU Cancer Center Genetics clinic, call 706-721-1314, or visit www.georgiahealth.edu/cancer.