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Understanding BRCA & HBOC > Hereditary Cancer > Genetic Counseling & Risk Assessment

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Genetic Counseling & Risk Assessment

Learn about genes and cancer, signs of hereditary cancer, genetic counseling, types of genetic tests and what results mean for you and your family.

Overview

Every person is at risk for cancer, but each person's risk is individual. Many factors affect a person’s risk, including genetics, gender, age, family history, history of hormone exposure, and others. Cancer risk assessment experts use tools to define a person’s risk to develop certain types of cancer. An important component of risk assessment estimates the chance that a gene mutation is responsible for causing the cancers in a family.

Cancer genetic counselors, geneticists, and risk assessment counselors are health care providers with expertise in cancer genetics, and training in the use of specialized tools and statistical data to estimate individual risk. They will recommend appropriate options for screening and management of cancer risk and—when cancer has already been diagnosed— for treatment or follow-up care.

The benefits derived from different screening and risk management options depend on a person's estimated cancer risk, so it is important to speak with a risk assessment expert such as a geneticist or genetic counselor to get as accurate an assessment as possible.