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Cancer Risk Assessment Services

How to Schedule an Appointment

If you are interested in scheduling a cancer risk assessment, or speaking with a Dean Clinic cancer genetic counselor, contact:
Dean Clinic - Hematology and Oncology
1200 John Q. Hammons Drive, Suite 400
Madison, WI 53717
(608) 410-2700

What is cancer risk assessment?

Cancer risk assessment is a consultative service for women and men who have concerns about their personal and/or family history of cancer. The process provides the individual and his or her primary care providers with:

  • Personalized information regarding specific cancer risks
  • The likelihood of hereditary or familial influences
  • Recommended screening and prevention options

Undergoing a cancer risk assessment can help individuals lower their risk for cancer and improve the chances for early detection.

What can I learn from a cancer risk consultation?

Participating in a cancer risk consultation can help answer the following questions:

  • Am I at increased risk for the cancers that run in my family?
  • Do my children or other relatives have a greater chance to develop cancer?
  • Is there genetic testing available that would help me or my family?
  • What are the steps I need to take to reduce my risks for cancer?

How do I know if I need a cancer risk assessment?

While cancer is common, it most often occurs later in life and does not imply increased risks to relatives. About 15–20% of cancers are considered familial, where some increased risks may apply. About 5–10% of cancers are hereditary, where risks to family members are much greater than in the general population. Familial or hereditary cancer risk is suggested by the following:

  • Several relatives on the same side of the family with cancer
  • Cancer involving multiple generations
  • Cancer occurring at a younger age, such as breast or colon cancer under age 50
  • More than one type of cancer in the same person (colon and uterine; breast and ovarian)
  • Rare types of cancers such as male breast cancer or cancer of the adrenal gland
  • Persons with several benign (non-cancerous) tumors such as colon polyps

What does the cancer risk assessment process involve?

The process begins with collection of a detailed family and medical history. Based on this information, a personalized cancer risk analysis is performed and the individual is scheduled for a consultation to address the following:

  • Information about genetic and non-genetic cancer risk factors
  • Cancer risk estimates for the individual and family members
  • Likelihood for there to be a hereditary basis to the cancer in the family
  • Discussion of the appropriateness, availability, risks, benefits and limitations of genetic testing
  • Exploration of the medical, psychosocial and insurance implications of genetic testing
  • Review of risk reduction, screening prevention and research options

Requesting a cancer risk assessment does not mean you will be having genetic testing. In many cases it may be determined that genetic testing is not appropriate or needs to first be performed on another family member. If the decision to pursue genetic testing is made after thorough discussion of the risks and benefits, follow-up appointments to coordinate testing and review results and their meaning will be scheduled.

Who provides the cancer risk assessment?

Dean Clinic cancer risk assessment services are provided by genetic counselors, in conjunction with oncologists, psychologists and others involved in cancer care.

Genetic counselors are masters-level specialized healthcare professionals. They receive extensive training in medical and cancer genetics and psychosocial counseling through accredited training programs. They are certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. More information about genetic counseling can be obtained at the National Society of Genetic Counselors website.

What about my insurance?

Some patients hesitate to seek cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling services because of concerns regarding the possibility of insurance discrimination. Please be aware that seeing a genetic counselor for a cancer risk assessment does not mean that genetic testing will automatically take place.

In addition, there are no documented case reports nationwide of patients losing health insurance, being denied coverage or paying higher rates on the basis of undergoing a genetic test. Wisconsin has had a genetic non-discrimination law in place since 1991, as do most other states. Federal genetic non-discrimination laws also exist. Cancer risk assessment, genetic counseling and genetic testing are services covered by Dean Health Plan and many other insurance carriers.

Hematology and Oncology

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Improving Quality of Life

Learn about Dean's Oncology Support Services, which focus on helping individuals and families cope with many aspects of cancer.

Support groups and other services are available.

Treatment Information and Patient Resources

As our service to our patients, we offer a Treatment Information booklet that covers how to:

- Contact Dean after-hours
- Tolerate chemotherapy
- Manage common side effects
- And other topics

We also offer a Patient Resources listing and Symptom Management listing with:

- Links to websites
- Support group information
- Local organizations
- And more

Also, we encourage you to read our Initial Patient Education handout.

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Dean's oncology team puts out a newsletter for oncology patients titled the Oncology Observer.

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