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Genetics and Hereditary Cancers

Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

UT Southwestern Medical Center’s cancer genetics experts help patients identify their risk of developing cancer and provide information and guidance on available options to help them manage their health. Our team’s knowledge and experience is unmatched in the North Texas region.

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas, we deliver the best cancer care available today and push to discover new treatments. NCI designation means we offer patients the ability to participate in the broadest possible range of clinical trials, with access to potential therapies not available at other facilities.

Unmatched Knowledge and Experience in Cancer Genetics

About 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are hereditary or caused by a gene that’s not working correctly. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of cancers are due to a combination of genetics and environment; 60 percent of cases are thought to be random or sporadic. 

When a patient inherits a faulty gene (or several) from a family member, he or she might have a higher risk for developing certain cancers. Genetic testing can help patients determine that risk. Genetic counseling helps families understand the information they find and their options going forward.

The information patients gain from understanding their hereditary cancer risk might impact treatment decisions for family members who already have cancer and can help determine if other relatives are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

UT Southwestern has one of the fastest-growing cancer clinical genetics programs in the country, with expertise in identifying mutations and counseling patients with inherited disease. Our genetics team sees more than 3,700 patients each year – which means we help more patients than most genetics and hereditary cancer programs in the country. We offer genetic counseling, genetic testing, high-risk cancer management, and guidance and support for our patients and their families. A dedicated patient navigator helps patients schedule and stay on top of their medical appointments, and patients can take part in clinical trials, should they choose to do so. 

UT Southwestern has been recognized as a von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) Clinical Care Center by the VHL Alliance, the only medical center in North Texas with this distinction. 

Cancer Support and Resources

UT Southwestern offers a support team of specially trained nurses, psychologists, social workers, dietitians, and financial counselors. Our entire team is dedicated to helping patients and families get answers to their questions, learn coping strategies, and receive emotional and practical support.

Additional online resources about cancer genetics include:

Health Insurance Coverage

Most insurance companies cover genetic testing, but they might have specific criteria they consider in making this determination.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) publishes national genetic testing criteria for common hereditary cancer syndromes. While most insurance companies follow NCCN criteria to determine if genetic testing will be covered, some insurance companies alter their coverage criteria.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

A federal law called GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) was enacted in 2009 to prohibit the use of genetic result information as a pre-existing condition for the purposes of major medical coverage or of hiring or firing practices. The law includes a few exclusions for small-group coverage and members of the military. Read more information about the GINA law.

Financial Assistance

For patients who have limited or no insurance, the cost of genetic testing might be covered by grant funding or financial assistance programs. Patients should talk to their genetic counselors to determine if they qualify for such programs.

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Dallas, Texas 75235
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