Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction

UT Health Austin’s Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction service provides adult patients with access to a clinical genetic counselor who can help patients understand their risk for developing cancer as well as their options for prevention, early detection, and treatment. The Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction care team’s mission is to connect you with the appropriate providers and services for any recommended screenings to reduce your risk for developing cancer, increase your chances of early detection, and improve your quality of life.

Many answers to the questions you may have about the Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction service, hereditary cancer, and genetic testing can be found below.

    Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction

    At UT Health Austin, we focus on you, the whole patient, making sure that you have the support you need throughout your care. We take a multidisciplinary approach to your care, meaning you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. This multidisciplinary, coordinated care model makes it easier for patients to get the care they need without having to make multiple trips to various locations. Our goal is to connect you with the appropriate providers and services for any recommended screenings to reduce your risk for developing cancer, increase your chances of early detection, and improve your quality of life.

    Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, values, and beliefs. Through the Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction service, patients gain access to a clinical genetic counselor who can help those patients understand their risk for developing cancer as well as their options for prevention, early detection, and treatment.

    Through our Multidisciplinary Case Conferences, we collaborate with our colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin and the Dell Medical School to stay informed of the latest research, diagnostic, and surveillance techniques, and we partner with existing providers in the Austin area to ensure we can successfully connect you with services recommended as part of your personalized cancer screening plan. We also provide you with community resources and help coordinate high-risk surveillance so that you have support every step of the way. Advanced imaging and lab testing are also available on-site if needed.

    The Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction care team includes clinical genetic counselors, medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, nurses, advanced practice providers, dietitians, social workers, and more as well as other members of the CaLM Care Team, who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you. We also work alongside specialists across Cancer Fertility Preservation, Digestive Health, Women’s Health, Primary Care, Dermatology, and more.

    The Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction service provides adult patients with access to a clinical genetic counselor who can help patients understand their risk of developing cancer as well as their options for prevention, early detection, and treatment.

    A list of conditions treated conditions treated through Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction services can be found here.

    The Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction service provides adult patients with access to a clinical genetic counselor who can help patients understand their risk of developing cancer as well as their options for prevention, early detection, and treatment.

    A list of services can be found here.

    No, a referral is not required. However, if you are referred to our service, the Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction care team will identify any existing records of treatment in the UT Health Austin System and communicate with your referring provider to obtain needed medical records and other information. If you have received medical treatment from a provider other than your referring provider, your care team will contact you to receive a written Authorization to Receive Medical Records from your other provider(s).

    To make an appointment with UT Health Austin’s Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction service, please call 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) or visit here.

    Prior to your initial appointment, it is important that you gather as much information about your own medical history as possible. Discuss your family history with your relatives to learn who in your family has been diagnosed with cancer, what type of cancer they were diagnosed with, how old they were at the time of the diagnosis, and any specific treatments they received. If other relatives have undergone genetic testing, it is useful to have a copy of their results as well. You will also be asked to fill out our online questionnaire called CancerGene Connect to assist with gathering this information. This questionnaire helps provide the Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction care team with a comprehensive overview of your personal medical history as well as any family history of cancer prior to your appointment. It also allows our genetic counselors to spend more time evaluating and discussing your concerns during your appointment.

    To explore FAQs regarding your upcoming appointment, please click here.

    During your initial appointment, if you have not participated in genetic testing for hereditary cancer, our genetic counselors will perform a personalized cancer risk assessment by evaluating your personal and family history. Our counselors will also discuss the benefits and limitations of genetic testing as well as insurance coverage for genetic testing. If you decide not to pursue genetic testing, a personal cancer screening plan can still be developed based on your family history. If you choose to pursue genetic testing, your DNA will be collected through a blood or saliva sample. Once your results are available, our genetic counselors will discuss all test results with you and develop a cancer screening plan specific to your needs. If we determine you have a hereditary cancer syndrome, we work with you to coordinate any follow-up management you may need.

    UT Health Austin’s Hereditary Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction service is committed to providing compassionate, whole-patient care to ensure patients and their families are receiving the highest level of specialized care. We believe you deserve the best possible care, which is why we’ve compiled a list of resources that may be beneficial to you.

    Explore our list of patient and family resources.

    Hereditary Cancer

    There are many factors that can contribute to an individual’s risk for developing cancer. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are hereditary, meaning that an individual is born with a genetic condition that causes an increased risk for developing cancer. These genetic conditions are referred to as hereditary cancer syndromes.

    Hereditary cancer syndromes are caused by pathogenic variants (or mutations) in genes that are meant to protect an individual from developing certain types of cancer. When these genes have pathogenic variants, this causes the genes to become non-functional (or not function the way they should), which leads to an increased risk for developing cancer. In most cases, the non-functional gene is inherited from a parent and can be passed on to a child.

    If pathogenic variants (or mutations) are identified, it does not necessarily mean that you will develop cancer.

    Certain patterns of cancer may be identified within families with hereditary cancer. These patterns include having several close family members with the same type of cancer, such as a mother, daughter, and sister, with the same type of cancer; developing cancer at an unusually early age; having a rare cancer in the family; or having two or more types of cancer develop in the same person.

    Genetic Testing

    Genetic testing identifies pathogenic variants (or mutations) in certain genes to assess a patient’s risk for developing cancer. Genetic counseling helps patients understand the benefits, limitations, and risks associated with undergoing genetic testing as well as how genetic testing affects healthcare management, such as the options available to patients for prevention, early detection, and treatment.

    No, genetic testing cannot predict a cancer diagnosis. If pathogenic variants (or mutations) are identified, it does not necessarily mean that you will develop cancer.

    We offer testing for genes that are related to increased risk for developing breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, gynecologic cancer, melanoma, and more. This includes the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome as well as genes associated with Lynch syndrome.

    Individuals who are at an increased risk for hereditary cancer syndromes should consider genetic counseling to discuss if genetic testing is right for them.

    Risk factors for hereditary cancer syndromes include:

    • Cancer diagnosis at an unusually young age (typically under the age of 50)
    • Diagnosis of a rare cancer, such as male breast cancer or a sarcoma
    • Multiple cancer diagnoses in a single individual
    • Multiple generations of a family diagnosed with cancer
    • Multiple relatives diagnosed with the same cancer or related cancers

    The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) publishes genetic testing criteria for hereditary cancer syndromes, and most insurance companies follow NCCN criteria to determine if genetic testing will be covered. Our genetic counselors will perform a personalized cancer risk assessment by evaluating your personal and family history to determine whether you meet criteria for genetic testing.

    If you choose to pursue genetic testing, your DNA will be collected through a blood or saliva sample. Once your results are available, our genetic counselors will discuss all test results with you and develop a cancer screening plan specific to your needs. If we determine you have a hereditary cancer syndrome, we work with you to coordinate any follow-up management you may need.

    Genetic testing can assist with understanding your risk for developing certain cancers. Once your results are available, our genetic counselors will discuss all test results with you and develop a cancer screening plan specific to your needs. If we determine you have a hereditary cancer syndrome, we work with you to coordinate any follow-up management you may need, such as increased surveillance or risk-reducing surgeries.

    Understanding your risk for developing cancer as well as the options available to you for prevention, early detection, and treatment can help improve your quality of life. Genetic counseling can also help patients make informed decisions about their health.