The Clinical Genetics and Genetic Counseling Service at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) specializes in talking with patients about testing to detect genes that increase cancer risk. Our medical genetics and genetic counselors are here to help you understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, and familial implications of disease related to your genetic background.
Counseling before testing
Before you have genetic testing, you will have a genetic counseling visit. During this visit, you will talk with a medical geneticist or a licensed, board-certified genetic counselor, one specifically trained in genetics, counseling, and risk assessment, about the pros and cons of what it means to know the results of genetic testing. The medical geneticist or genetic counselor will obtain your family medical history and will help you prepare to understand the implications of your test results.
How do I get genetic testing?
You may want to see a medical geneticist or genetic counselor to discuss testing or your doctor may refer you if any of the following is true:
- You have had young-onset breast cancer (diagnosed before age 50).
- You have had triple-negative breast cancer.
- You are a man who has had breast cancer.
- You have had ovarian cancer.
- You have had young-onset uterine cancer (diagnosed before age 50).
- You have had young-onset colorectal cancer (diagnosed before age 50).
- You have had multiple colon polyps or young onset of polyps (before age 40).
- Multiple generations of your family have had cancer.
- You have had two or more separate cancers diagnosed at the same or different times.
If you decide to pursue genetic testing after you meet with a medical geneticist or a genetic counselor, you will provide a sample of your DNA from a blood draw or a saliva swab. We will send your DNA sample to the genetic testing laboratory. Depending on the specifics of the genetic test, results will be available in three weeks to three months.
Testing for the right gene
For genetic testing to be helpful, it’s important to test for the correct gene. There are many genes that may predispose you to develop various cancers of the breast, ovaries, colon, or uterus. The most commonly tested genes are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Disease-causing mutations in these genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome.
There are other cancer syndromes that may also lead to early-onset cancer in a family, including Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis, Cowden syndrome, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Talking with a medical geneticist or a genetic counselor will ensure that you receive the most appropriate testing for your situation.
Learn about inherited causes of cancer here.
What happens after testing
If you decide to proceed with genetic testing, your results will be used for your genetic counseling assessment, where SCCA specialists will recommend future cancer screenings, health management plans, and cancer prevention options for you. For example, if a woman tests positive for a disease-causing mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, we may recommend that she get frequent cancer screenings to detect cancer early, or we may present her with options, like prophylactic surgery, to reduce her risk of cancer.
A medical geneticist or genetic counselor will help you understand what you may be facing once you receive your test results and your team’s recommendations.
Make an appointment
To make an appointment with a genetic counselor, call (206) 606-7222.