The role of genetics in cancer is complex, and our understanding of it is advancing quickly. It is important to start by understanding these key points:
At NECS, we provide genetic testing across a spectrum of inherited cancer syndromes, including:
One in three people will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime, but only 5–10% of cancers are hereditary. Most cancers are “sporadic,” caused by changes in a gene as a result of the environment (e.g., ultraviolet exposure), behavior (diet, tobacco or alcohol exposure), or by chance.
Signs of a hereditary cancer syndrome are:
Our genetic counselors can help you and your family understand your chance of developing cancer due to a genetic condition known as a hereditary cancer syndrome. If you decide genetic counseling is right for you, a genetic counselor will meet with you to review:
Ask relatives for clear information about your family history of cancer, including type(s) of cancer, age(s) when it was found, and treatments received. Pathology and medical records are also helpful. You should be given a family history form to fill out. Or you can download the family history form here. Your initial visit takes about one hour. If you are a new patient to the practice you may meet with a doctor. You may also find it helpful to bring someone with you to your appointment.
Your genetic counselor may find that your risk of having a genetic susceptibility to cancer is low, and recommend against genetic testing.
If your family history does suggest a hereditary cancer syndrome, we will work together on a genetic testing plan for you and/or other family members.
Jessica Cary MS, RN, LCGC
A specialist in hereditary cancer syndromes, Jess is Board-Certified in Genetic Counseling (CGC) and Nursing. She worked in prenatal, pediatric, and lab-based genetic counseling before joining NECS in 2010. She offers patients empathetic support in making decisions about genetic testing, and interpreting the results.
Hannah Novak MS, CGC
Hannah returned to Maine, where she grew up, and joined NECS right after graduation from the genetic counseling program at Boston University in 2020. She has a passion for hereditary cancer syndromes, and strives to empower patients by helping them feel fully informed about genetic testing and its implications for them and their family.
Your genetic counselor will talk with you about different issues so you can make an informed decision about genetic testing. Questions to consider:
The cost of genetic testing has decreased significantly in recent years. Most insurance companies will cover genetic testing when your genetic counselor determines there are specific risk factors in your personal or family history. The genetic counselor will determine that at your visit.
Protection From Genetic Discrimination
There are laws that forbid health insurance plans and businesses from discriminating based on genetic information. Long-term disability and life insurance, however, may be affected. Your genetic counselor will discuss this with you in more detail, and you can read more about it here.