A Beacon of Light on Your Cancer Care Journey

EASTERN CONNECTICUT HEMATOLOGY & ONCOLOGY ASSOCIATES

Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment Program

When a family member has struggled with cancer, it is understandable to be concerned about your own risk. Cancer often develops by chance; however, in some cases there are genetic factors that increase your likelihood of developing certain types of cancer.

Early analysis of risk factors is important and can impact genetic testing recommendations, frequency of cancer screenings, and proactive steps to minimize the likelihood of developing subsequent disease. ECHO’s Genetics Risk Assessment Program can not only protect you but can also provide useful information to protect your loved ones.

Our experienced team provides the following services:

  • Provide individual risk assessment for people who have had family members with cancer.
  • Formulate a family pedigree to assess cancer risk for the individual and his/ her relatives.
  • Recommend appropriate screening procedures for cancer genetic testing.
  • Provide genetic testing for hereditary causes in high-risk individuals and relatives.
  • Recommend dietary and other lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures that can reduce the lifetime risk of cancer for those with certain cancer predispositions.
  • Evaluate patients with an established diagnosis of cancer for certain genetic mutations which may result in recommendations for additional screenings for the individual, as well as other family members.  
  • Review your results of testing and determine the appropriate next steps.

Meet Our Clinical Genetics Team

Our team is specially trained to help you understand genetic conditions, assess your risk of being affected by certain cancers, and support you in making informed decisions about testing and treatment.

Dennis E Slater, MD

• Medical Oncology & Clinical Immunology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, NY 1981–1985

• Board Certified in Internal Medicine in 1980 & Medical Oncology in 1985

• Certified Cancer Risk Assessment Program, City of Hope Clinical Cancer Genomics Community Practice in 2020

• Practicing Medical Oncology, Hematology, and Clinical Immunology in the Norwich Community since 1985

Susan Johnson, Pharm D

• Director of Clinical Research, ECHO Associates

• Clinical Pharmacist at William W. Backus Hospital 1990–2005

• Medical Director of Research at ECHO Cancer Center since 2006

Katelyn Spence, APRN

• Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner

• Certified Cancer Risk Assessment Program, City of Hope Clinical Cancer Genomics Community Practice 2018

• Oncology Nursing at Middlesex Hospital, previously practiced at Midstate Medical Oncology and in the Norwich community since 2017

Getting Started

If you are concerned about your risk of cancer based on your family history, talk to your healthcare provider, who can schedule a referral to our Clinical Genetics team. We will then schedule a consultation with you, discuss the appropriate next steps, and share our notes with your referring physician. As with all medical care, your privacy is of utmost importance and all medical records will be strictly confidential.

Helpful Information

Below is some additional information about the following topics:

Hereditary Cancer Risks

Based on genetics, some people and their family members are more likely to develop certain types of cancer. Some “red flags” for genetic related cancers include cancers under the age of 50, rare cancers, and families having multiple members with cancer. These families often share a common genetic factor, or altered gene, that is inherited. People in these families have a higher chance of developing cancer than those in the general public. At least ten percent of all cancers are due to an altered gene inherited from one or both of the person’s parents that are passed down in families. People who carry such altered genes do not always develop cancer, but their risk of developing cancer at some point is higher than average. 

The Role of Genetic Testing

Many different altered genes have been identified that can increase a person’s cancer risk. Genetic testing can be used to evaluate whether an individual has an altered gene associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers such as breast, ovarian, colon, uterine, pancreatic, kidney, thyroid, and other cancers. If genetic testing identifies an altered gene (hereditary predisposition to cancer), the individual who carries the altered gene will be offered special cancer screening and prevention options which may play a key role in his or her healthcare decision.

Who Should Consider Genetic Counseling?

Individuals with any of the following factors may benefit from cancer risk assessment and genetic testing.

  • Multiple relatives on the same side of the family with the same or related cancers, such as breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, colon, uterine, stomach, kidney/ urinary tract, small bowel, and brain
  • Cancer at unusually young ages, such as breast cancer (and DCIS), colon cancer, or endometrial (uterine) cancer diagnosed under the age of 50
  • More than one cancer diagnosis in the same individual, for example, bilateral breast (cancer in both breasts)
  • Ten or more precancerous colon polyps
  • Rare cancers, such as ovarian cancer and male breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with breast or ovarian cancer at any age
  • A family history of known, altered cancer-predisposing gene
  • Triple negative breast cancer diagnosed under age 60
  • Colon or endometrial (uterine) cancer with a specific histology – abnormal MSI/IHC under the age of 60

About Genetic Education & Genetic Testing

Genetic education includes a discussion of personal and family history of cancer. This information is used to determine an individual’s cancer risk and appropriate cancer screening and prevention options. Genetic education also includes an explanation of the scientific information related to genetic testing and which genetic tests may be useful. 

Genetic testing may not be useful for everyone receiving genetic education. Genetic counseling does not require genetic testing. Deciding whether to have genetic testing is a personal choice that can be made at the time of genetic education or in the future. When genetic testing is performed, it is a simple blood test. 

Overall, genetic counseling provides:

  • Individualized genetic cancer risk assessment for you and your family
  • Discussion of the benefits, limitations, and options for genetic testing
  • A detailed interpretation of results, for individuals who choose genetic testing
  • Discussion of appropriate cancer screening and prevention options