CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - The field of cancer genetics is exploding, but for patients navigating their way through it, the process can be difficult.
Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who are specially trained in both medical genetics and counseling.
Oncologist Carlos Robles said the Saint Francis Healthcare System is home to the only genetic counselor in southeast Missouri. He said having a geneticist on staff is instrumental for his cancer patients and their families.
“Genetic counseling becomes very important to try to identify those families that are higher risk and to do prevention and help the other family members that may carry those genes and they might not have developed the cancer yet,” explained Robles.
Melanie Baxter is a cancer genetic counselor at Saint Francis Healthcare System. Baxter said genetic testing can sometimes be very confusing for patients.
Her expertise in medical genetics and counseling help guide patients more than ever before. She said guidelines change frequently and sitting down with a genetic counselor before genetic tests are run is important.
“And then on the back end, when results are in, I think that’s where genetic counselors really shine because we are able to sit down and spend a lot more time with patients than some other healthcare providers have the time to do,” explained Baxter. “To really dig into what testing was performed, what the result means for that patient, how does it change their medical management and then how does it potentially change medial management for their relatives.”
Baxter said if your testing was ordered more than five years ago, it could be considered outdated and she encourages you to look into new tests.
She said there are more than 40 different genes associated with inherited cancer risk and many more are being researched.
If you would like cancer genetic counseling, you should contact your doctor for a referral.