Cancer Genetic Counseling Program

The Cancer Center Genetic Counseling Program provides genetic counseling and testing to individuals who may be at an increased risk of cancer due to an underlying inherited genetic condition.

The Cancer Genetic Counseling Program is part of the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center. The goal of the program is to provide personalized counseling regarding cancer risk, cancer genetics, genetic testing, early detection, improved cancer management and possible risk reduction.

Gene Variants and Cancer

Cancer has many risk factors. Experts continue to research how normal cells, through genetic changes (variants), turn into cancerous cells. A variants is a change of the DNA or chromosome within a gene. Two types of gene variants can cause cancer:

  1. Random or Somatic gene variants: The majority of cancers are the result of random gene variants that develop throughout a patient’s lifetime. A variants may occur when cells divide. Variants may be due to environmental factors, such as aging, radiation or chemicals. These types of variants are not passed on to the next generation.
  2. Inherited or Germ Line gene variants: These gene variants are passed down from generation to generation (inherited cancer). If a person is born with an inherited cancer gene, he or she may have a higher risk of developing cancer, and the variant can be passed to their children. It is not certain that people who inherit a known cancer gene will actually get cancer. However, they have a much higher risk of developing cancer compared to the general population. In other words, people don’t inherit cancer from their families; they inherit an increased risk of developing cancer. About 5 percent to 10 percent of all cancers are due to a hereditary factor. Many genes have been identified that play a role in certain cancers. For example, researchers have discovered genes that can contribute to the development of some forms of breast, ovarian, colorectal, uterus (endometrium), thyroid, pancreatic cancer and melanoma.

To help you understand your family history of cancer, the Cancer Genetic Counseling Program at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin offers Genetic counseling, Cancer risk assessment and Genetic testing.

Our genetic counselors and physicians will help you understand your family medical history and your personal risk of cancer. This information may be helpful when making decisions about strategies for cancer risk reduction. These strategies can include changes in surveillance (testing) compared to a general (regular risk) population, prophylactic surgeries, and other interventions.

Who May Benefit From Cancer Genetic Screening?

You may benefit from a cancer genetic screening if any of the following situations apply to your family history. Relatives may include cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings.

  • Multiple relatives with a history of cancer, including:
    • Breast
    • Ovary
    • Skin
    • Prostate
    • Thyroid
    • Uterus (endometrium)
    • Colorectal
  • Relative with, or personal history of a diagnosis of a cancer prior to the age of 50.
  • Unusual diagnosis of cancer, such as a male with breast cancer.
  • Personal history of two or more malignancies
  • Relative with diagnosis of two or more malignancies.

Why is my doctor referring me to genetic counseling?

  • Your doctor may have concerns that there could be a hereditary (or genetic) component (or predisposition) to your diagnosis.
  • Genetic counseling and gene testing may be applied to individualize your treatment plan.
  • The main goal of genetic counseling and testing is to assist in creating a medical management plan for early detection and prevention of heritable conditions.

What happens during a genetic counseling appointment?

  • This will be an open discussion with a genetic counselor to do some information gathering talk about your personal history and your family history to perform a risk assesment.
  • The genetic counselor may also discuss prevention or early detection for your children, siblings, or other family members as your results may have indications for their health screening and management.
  • After this discussion, the genetic counselor will work with your care team to inform treatment and management, helping to guide future conversations you may have with your care team.
  • Typically, this appointment will be about 60 minutes depending on how big your family is and how many questions you may have about genetics and genetic testing.

Do I have to do genetic testing

  • No, there is no obligation to do genetic testing. This intial discuss with the counselor will help determine if genetic testing is right for you.
  • The genetic counselor will talk about the logistics of testing, the different types of results, and what the results could mean for you and your family.

Will my health insurance cover genetic counseling and testing?

  • The genetic counseling appointment is billed through your insurance just like any other doctor’s visit. If you have additional questions, you may reach out to your specific insurance company with the CPT code 96040, which is billed under Dr. Donald Basel.
  • Many insurance companies cover genetic testing if you meet certain criteria based on your personal and family history.
  • The laboratory will run a benefits investigation, which will determine the estimated out-of-pocket cost for the test.
  • In most cases, the out-of-pocket cost is between $0 and $100 dollars.
  • The genetic counselor can discuss specifics of insurance coverage and pre-authorizations for the testing during your appointment.

Any other questions I may have?

The genetic counselor can answer (or will discuss) that during your appointment.

What is GINA?

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that protects people from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment. Genetic discrimination is the misuse of genetic information.

Read more about GINA – 268 KBGINA brochure.

Can I complete a Risk Assessment form before my appointment?

The Cancer Genetic Counseling Services Risk Assessment for Hereditary Cancer Syndromes can be found here – 139 KBPatient family history form

Meet our Cancer Genetic Counselors

Christian, CJ, MS, CGC

Christian, CJ, MS, CGC

Licensed, Certified Genetic Counselor Specialty: Gynecologic Oncology
Depas, Morgan, MS, CGC

Depas, Morgan, MS, CGC

Licensed, Certified Genetic Counselor Specialty: Gynecologic Oncology
Hackl, Margaret, MS, GC

Hackl, Margaret, MS, GC

Licensed, Genetic Counselor Specialty: Gynecologic Oncology
Harriman, Jamie, MS, CGC

Harriman, Jamie, MS, CGC

Licensed, Certified Genetic Counselor Specialty: Maternal-Fetal Medicine; Gynecologic Oncology
Lemert, Phebe, MS, GC

Lemert, Phebe, MS, GC

Licensed, Genetic Counselor Specialty: Gynecologic Oncology
Stachowiak, Samantha, MS, CGC

Stachowiak, Samantha, MS, CGC

Licensed, Certified Genetic Counselor Specialty: Gynecologic Oncology

More Information & Scheduling