September 5, 2013
Genetic Counseling Services Give Patients Control at Simmons Cancer Institute
Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate who have tested positive for the breast cancer gene, commonly known as BRCA, have increased awareness about hereditary cancers and genetic counseling. To help individuals interested in their cancer risk, three board-certified genetic counselors are seeing patients at Simmons Cancer Institute (SCI) at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, 315 W. Carpenter St. in Springfield.
Genetic counseling can help patients take control by providing knowledge about appropriate cancer screening guidelines, genetic testing and preventative surgeries in some cases.
Heather Glessner, Ellen Thomas and Dan Groepper make up the genetic counseling team at SCI. “A patient doesn’t necessarily have to have a cancer diagnosis to meet and discuss their family medical history with a genetic counselor,” Glessner said. Any physician can refer a patient if there is a history of cancer in the family or if a close relative, such as a sibling, is diagnosed.
The team provides cancer risk counseling services at SCI and also counsel for prenatal and reproductive risks and for personal or family history of a known genetic condition.
Genetic counseling “can help dispel family myths,” Groepper said. “A person may be at risk for cancer based on family history, but cancer is not inevitable.”
Taking a genetic history is similar to constructing a family tree, according to Glessner. “During a cancer consultation, we inquire about patient’s relatives, including the type and age of onset of their cancer and age at death. We assess their risk for hereditary cancer syndromes with this information, consider genetic testing and discuss how possible outcomes may impact their future medical decisions,” Glessner said. The team also helps patients determine if their insurance provider will cover the cost of testing.
Patients must have a referral from their physician for genetic counseling services. To make an appointment with a genetic counselor, call 217-545-8000. The mission of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer needs through education, research, patient care and community service. Its website is www.siumed.edu/cancer.