Assessment of Cancer Center’s Genetics Counseling Program for Leukemia Patients

A poster presented during the Oncology Nursing Society 44th Annual Congress highlighted key points and outcomes associated with one institution’s experience with genetics counseling for its leukemia patients.

Author Sharon Mattox APRN, FNP, discussed how MD Anderson Cancer Center orchestrates genetics counseling—defined by the National Society of Genetics Counselors “as a way of helping people understanding and adjust to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetics contributions to their disease.” Genetic counselors are subject-matter experts and are required to have a Master of Science degree in genetics counseling. Conducting genetics counseling in its leukemia patients allows the MD Anderson Cancer Center to obtain information regarding the family’s medical history, which in turn helps evaluate the patient’s risk of disease occurrences and reoccurrences.

In addition to family medical history, genetic counseling at MD Anderson Cancer Center includes questions pertaining to the following:

  • Childhood illnesses
  • Whether they bruise easily
  • Hair loss
  • Early graying
  • Childhood immunizations
  • Frequent rashes
  • Developmental delays
  • Early menses onset

Often, genetics testing is performed when physical signs and symptoms suggest that a genetic condition may be present. Genetics testing may shed light of not only genetic conditions but also chromosome abnormalities and gene mutations. Different outcomes may include:

  • Fanconi anemia
  • Dyskeratosis congenita
  • Diamond-Blackfan anemia
  • Shwachman-Diamond
  • Severe congenital neutropenia/Thrombocytopenia
  • GATA2 deficiency
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome

At MD Anderson Cancer Center, patients undergo bloodwork and diagnostic testing. This includes a skin punch biopsy–a speedy process that can help identify or eliminate certain genetic or chromosomal conditions. In preparation for meeting with their genetics counselor, patients are encouraged to do the following:

  • Bring medical record and pathology records
  • Know of family history and any family inheritance
  • Make a list of family members with a history of cancer, including what type of cancer

The goals for genetics counseling are to determine whether the patient should undergo genetics testing and provide the patient and family with an understanding of how genetics testing may be beneficial to disease management, prevention, and risk reduction.

Mattox S. Genetics Counseling: Creating Breakthroughs for Leukemia Patients. Presented at the Oncology Nursing Society 44th Annual Congress.