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An Introduction to Genetic Counseling

My name is Mandy Kass and I’m the genetic counselor for Ironwood CRC. I graduated from ASU in May 2013 with my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and then went on to pursue my Master’s degree in Human Genetics from Sarah Lawrence College in New York City. This specialized training allowed me to be exposed to all areas of genetics including oncology, which is my passion.


As a genetic counselor, one of the biggest questions I get asked is, “what is genetic counseling?” Cancer genetic counseling involves using a patient’s personal and family history of cancer to better determine whether or not they are at risk for having an inherited predisposition to cancer.

The way that we determine whether or not someone is at a high risk for these inherited predispositions, is by looking for certain red flags. These red flags include:

-Cancer diagnosed at a young age (Under the age of 50)

-A strong family history of cancer involving certain cancer types that appears to track through the generations

-Rare cancer types like ovarian cancer for example, or cancers occurring bilaterally (in both of a pair of organs)

-Multiple primary cancer types in one person

-Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry


Once we’ve determined that someone is at a high risk, we can pursue genetic testing.  Our goal is identify a genetic change that puts them at an increased risk for certain cancer types.


Why do I need Genetic Testing?

With genetic testing, we can attempt to identify a genetic change that causes a predisposition to cancer.  This allows us to create a screening plan that manages these specific cancer risks. When we identify an inherited predisposition in a patient, we can then offer testing to family members to identify those who are also at an increased risk, and should be having increased screening.


Genetic Counseling for Cancer in Arizona is a service that is available to all Ironwood Cancer and Research Center patients, so if you think you would be a good candidate for genetic counseling, talk to your Ironwood physician at 480-821-0238 or visit our website.