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IMPORTANCE OF REFERRAL TO CANCER GENETICS

For primary care physicians, genetics is quickly becoming an integral part of patient care. Many patients are becoming more aware of genetic contributions to common diseases like cancer (Table 2.1) and may ask for guidance regarding the possibility of genetic testing or a better understanding of their risks of developing cancer. Primary care physicians must recognize which of their patients need cancer genetics services to provide a detailed risk assessment and/or coordinate genetic testing for inherited cancer gene variants, as this may have implications for both the patient and their family members. Specifically, identifying hereditary risk factors for cancer could inform treatment decisions for individuals with cancer, direct surveillance and management for the prevention or early detection of future cancers, and identify at-risk relatives that could benefit from genetic testing and, if positive, increased surveillance. Additionally, referring patients to a cancer genetics specialist can help identify the most appropriate individual in a family to undergo genetic testing, as it may not always be the patient who is initially referred.

TABLE 2.1Benign and Malignant Tumors and the Criteria That Warrant Assessment for Cancer Predisposition Regardless of Family History

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