Torrance Memorial's genetic counselor may put your mind at ease.
Written By Carole Jakucs, BSN, RN, PHN
You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. So many questions arise.
You want to know why you got it. You also wonder, is it genetic? Does
your family need to be concerned they’ll get it too? Questions like
these can be answered by a licensed genetic counselor.
At Torrance Memorial Medical Center, genetic counseling services are offered
in the Hunt Cancer Institute. Lauren Rudichuk, MS, CGC (certified genetic
counselor), is educated in the science of genetics and provides the artful
skills of a counselor when advising her patients after a diagnosis of cancer.
Rudichuk says having a background in genetic science enables her to provide
comprehensive services to patients, such as taking their medical history,
mapping out family medical problems, collaborating with referring and
treating physicians, recommending the most appropriate genetic tests,
or determining if a patient has a genetic predisposition for developing
a specific type of cancer in the future.
“Family history is an important tool for genetic counseling. If a
patient is diagnosed at age 30 with breast cancer, it’s a red flag
that this could be a result of a genetic predisposition to cancer. This
information prompts the question, ‘Who else in my family might have
this gene mutation?’” says Rudichuk.
“Mutations in certain genes can lead to cancer. For example, mutations
in the BRACA1 and BRACA2 genes may mean a higher risk of breast and ovarian
cancer,” Rudichuk says. And determining which type of gene mutation
has occurred has treatment implications as well.
The other important function of a genetic counselor is to help patients
navigate through their diagnosis, she explains. “We guide patients
through the process, helping them understand their test results and providing
psychosocial support to patients and their families. Sometimes we’ll
refer patients to support groups or a psychologist for additional support,”
Talk to your doctor about your risks and if you should be tested.
How Genetic Testing Works
Specialized genetic testing can find high-risk people and stop them from
becoming cancer patients. We offer on-site testing and counseling.
Our service can assist your understanding of the test and its results,
as well as offer advice on how to lower the risk of cancer.
Prior to getting tested, you should talk to your doctor about:
• Your family history of cancer
• Your personal history of cancer
Counseling before the test can help you understand what the test result
will mean. It can also explain options that are available if the test
In some cases, patients seek testing before they are diagnosed with cancer.
If this is the case, tests will focus on the closest relative who has
been diagnosed. If this relative is not alive, the test can still offer