Karen A. Brooks, MS, CGC, is a certified genetic counselor with 30 years of experience in genetic counseling, half of those years spent focusing on cancer genetics. As clinical assistant professor at the USC School of Medicine, Karen Brooks has taught cancer genetics on the graduate level for many years. Her expertise and experience is now available on site at SCOA.

Within the last two decades, the role genetics plays in the development of cancer has become prominent. Even more so, the field of cancer genetics has exploded within the last few years as more and more gene-cancer associations are made. About 5-10% of cancer is inherited or hereditary while another 10-15% is most likely driven by the interaction of genetic background and environment. A genetic counselor can help your medical oncologist determine if your cancer or family history of cancer is hereditary. Not only do cancer susceptibility syndromes run in families and therefore can affect family members. Cancer susceptibility also can mean that an affected individual could be at an increased risk for other cancers for which he/she should be screened.

During the cancer risk assessment, the genetic counselor will:

  • Obtain a three- to four-generation cancer-focused family history
  • Determine the likelihood that the family history of cancer is suggestive of inherited susceptibility
  • Provide patient education and answer questions about cancer risks, options for genetic testing and the benefits, limitations and potential risks of testing
  • Review medical options along with the medical oncologist with or without genetic testing
  • Provide psychosocial support to and facilitate communication between patients and their relatives
  • Coordinate the process of genetic testing with appropriate specialized laboratories
  • Report genetic testing results and explain their implications to the patient and relatives
  • Communicate with the patient’s primary care physician or other referring specialist about any necessary medical follow-up

Patients can be referred for cancer risk assessment and genetic counseling by their medical oncologist or can request an appointment if concerned about their personal and/or family history of cancer.



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