Staff Report

Genetic counselors have specialized education in genetics and counseling to provide personalized support to patients as they make decisions about their genetic health, and they are dedicated to helping the community understand the important role they play in health care.

The Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s Genetic Counseling Program in Santa Barbara has three genetic counselors on staff to help patients and families with a history of cancer understand and manage their cancer risk.

Although most cancer is not inherited, about 5-10 percent of people with cancer have a hereditary form, or a predisposition to cancer. Hereditary cancers occur because of a change (mutation) in certain genes.

Pursuing genetic counseling may be beneficial to your family if your or any of your relatives:

  • Have been diagnosed with cancer before age 50
  • Have had more than one type of cancer
  • Have had cancer in both breasts
  • Have rare cancers, such as ovarian cancer or male breast cancer.

In addition, genetic counseling can be helpful if:

  • The same type of cancer been diagnosed in two or more relatives
  • Your family has a known hereditary cancer syndrome
  • Your family history of cancer causes you to worry about the risk for you or your children

If a doctor recommends genetic counseling, a first appointment will typically include a review of your personal and family history; assessment of your personal cancer risk; discussion of the role genes play in the development of cancer; prevention strategies to reduce your cancer risk; information about the risks; reassurance about confidentiality; support to make educated and informed decisions about genetic testing; and genetic testing facilitation, when appropriate.

Genetic testing for various inherited forms of cancer is also available at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center.

Deciding whether or not to pursue testing is a personal choice that can be made at the time of the initial visit or at a future date.

If an individual chooses to undergo genetic testing, a blood or saliva sample will be taken and analyzed. Results are confidential and discussed thoroughly with the certified genetic counselor.

To learn more, call the Genetic Counseling Department at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, 805-879-5653.