Your genetic history reveals a great deal about you and your family, such as your eye color and your ancestry. Your genetic makeup also can provide clues about your health, including your risks for certain types of cancer.

The Cancer Risk & Prevention Program at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center offers comprehensive cancer genetic counseling and assessment to individuals concerned about their risk of cancer. With an emphasis on wellness of the mind, body and spirit, the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute offers a wide range of programs to prevent or detect cancer in its earliest stages, including being one of the only hospitals in the greater Long Beach area to offer a comprehensive genetics program.

Who Can Benefit

If you don’t have a personal cancer history, knowing your family history and genetic makeup can help determine what prevention steps you can make to reduce your risk for certain cancers. Additionally, with certain cancer screenings people at increased risk often need to be screened more frequently or earlier than normal.

If you have previously been diagnosed with cancer, genetic counseling and testing can help determine if there is a genetic explanation for your cancer and if you have an elevated risk to develop additional cancers. This information often leads to extra cancer screenings and/or preventative measures and can assist in determining cancer risk for your family members.

Genetic Counseling vs. Genetic Testing

Genetic counseling is a one-to-two-hour consultation with a licensed genetic counselor. During this consultation, the counselor will analyze your family cancer patterns, explain how genes are inherited and explain the difference between hereditary and sporadic cancer. You also will discuss the ethical, legal, and social implications associated with genetic testing to help you decide if the benefits of genetic testing outweigh the risks, including emotional, social and financial risks.

Genetic testing is a type of medical test that identifies changes in chromosomes, genes or proteins. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.

Testing is done on a small sample of bodily fluid or tissue—usually blood, but sometimes saliva, cells from inside the cheek, or skin cells. The sample is then sent to a laboratory. The laboratory returns the test results to the doctor or genetic counselor who requested the test. It usually takes several weeks or up to several months to receive results. Genetic testing can give several possible results: positive, negative, true negative, uninformative negative, variant of uncertain significance, or benign (harmless) variant.

The genetic counselors at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute are licensed professionals with special education and training, who interpret the genetic test results and provide you with an individualized cancer risk analysis.