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Ask the Expert: Cancer genetic counseling services at Park Avenue Medical Center

An interview with Claire Healy, MS, certified genetics counselor, outreach coordinator, Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital

Q: What is cancer genetic counseling?

Cancer genetic counseling provides assessment and testing to people who are at risk for hereditary cancer. It helps patients better understand the way their personal and family history affects their risk to develop cancer in the future. This information helps them to make informed decisions about their medical care. It can also identify other members of the family who may be at risk to develop cancer, and give the patient advice for how to discuss this with those family members.

Q: Who should undergo genetic counseling?

It can be hard to make a complete list of the reasons for a referral to genetic counseling. Patients should tell their providers about their personal and/or family history of cancer, and ask their provider whether they might benefit from a referral to genetic counseling. Genetic counseling can also be helpful after a hereditary condition is diagnosed to better understand the condition.

Q: What types of services are offered?

We offer:

  • Genetic counseling for patients with a personal and/ or family history of cancer that suggests a hereditary cancer syndrome. This can include breast, colon, kidney, pancreatic, prostate and many other cancers as well as noncancerous conditions such as hyperparathyroidism, skin lesions and multiple colon polyps.

  • Cancer prevention clinics for patients who are at increased risk to develop breast, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary cancers either due to the diagnosis of a hereditary cancer syndrome or because of a family history of cancer. Patients can come to these clinics for a one-time consultation to talk about appropriate screening and management. In some cases, patients who may be at risk of developing certain cancers are referred to physicians and nurse practitioners in the program. These practitioners can help to coordinate screenings, perform physical exams and discuss lifestyle modifications that may reduce a person’s cancer risk.

Q: How do patients schedule a genetic counseling session?

Patients should get a referral from their primary care provider and call 203-200-4362 to schedule an appointment. Clinics are Mondays and Wednesdays at Park Avenue Medical Center in Trumbull.