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Genetic Counseling, Cancer Risk, and You: Education and Empowerment For a Better Prognosis

In many areas of research, the question of nature versus nurture is a leading variable in a person’s overall health and wellbeing. While genetic predisposition can certainly play a sizable role in potential risk factors, there still needs to be something to act upon a specific gene to serve as a catalyst for a particular outcome.

This is especially true for cancer. As the leading cause of death across the globe, nearly one in six people will eventually succumb to some variety of cancer. However, while your genes can put you in a higher risk category for developing cancer, gene expression nonetheless needs to occur before this disease can take shape.

Because of this, understanding your own genetic blueprint through genetic counseling can potentially provide life saving information. While knowledge about your own possible inherited risk factors for developing cancer won’t necessarily prevent you from eventually developing it, it can help empower you to take any necessary steps to safeguard yourself.

What is Genetic Counseling?

Many people have a broad understanding as to their own genetic predisposition toward certain diseases. Whether they may have lost a loved one to a chronic disease or they’ve witnessed a private struggle with poor health in a family member, it’s undoubtedly something that can leave a lasting impression. 

However, merely noting a family member has experienced an illness is only one piece of the puzzle, and it can easily lead to more questions than answers. That’s where genetic counseling takes shape. Rather than trying to play guessing games with your health – you can get more custom-tailored advice to help you prevent the emergence of these diseases. 

A genetic counselor can help determine with more precise clarity whether a particular condition is heritable and in turn, they can also help identify with a higher degree of certainty if there is an elevated risk that you may be affected by it. This science-based relationship can start with an assessment of your genetic code. 

Through their guidance, you’ll be able to better interpret the results of DNA testing and cross-reference them with an exhaustive database of existing research. 

Genetic Counseling and Cancer

The relationship between genetics and cancer is incredibly complex, and a number of covariables can enter the equation to influence the likelihood of developing this disease. Nonetheless, having a genetic predisposition can play a considerable role in the probability of you eventually developing cancer. 

Indeed, several types of cancer have been traced back to genetics, and having these particular genes does increase susceptibility. These include:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Uterine Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Melanoma

While having a particular single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on a gene can markedly increase that risk, it’s important to remember that it’s not guaranteed. This is why genetic counseling is so essential. Rather than contending with ambiguities, you can address the potential and take precise measures to curtail this epigenetic risk. And with it, you can take proactive measures to protect yourself.

Arming Yourself With Genetic Counseling

It’s easy to become concerned when facing the risk of developing cancer, especially if you’ve seen firsthand how it has affected others in your life. It’s a common misconception, though, that cancer is inevitable. In fact, the scientific community largely maintains that cancer is a preventable disease. In turn, all it takes is having the right tools in your arsenal to prevent it from occurring.

Genetic counseling is one such tool that you can use. With a detailed blueprint of your own risk in hand, as well as a trained professional to guide you through risks, you can take measures to keep yourself safe. 

Through genetic counseling, you can not only mitigate this risk, but you can also set your mind at ease with the knowledge that you’re doing everything in your power to avoid succumbing to cancer. 

Genetic counselors can help you not only interpret your test results, but they can also help prepare you emotionally and mentally for the possibility of various outcomes. You’ll also be provided with the resources to help reduce your risk of developing cancer, as well as guidance on your treatment options.