Target Population

Individuals who seek cancer risk counseling are often highly motivated by a personal experience with cancer in their family and by concern for the risks faced by themselves and their offspring. Participants in cancer risk counseling are often self-referred, but as physicians become more aware of the importance of family history in determining an individual's risk for cancer, they are increasingly referring their patients for genetic evaluation. Although the general indication for participation in a cancer risk counseling program is a perception of increased risk for cancer based on family history and/or other recognized risk exposures, individual participants come to the process with a wide variety of experiences, health beliefs, expectations, and needs. An assessment of individual differences that can influence comprehension and compliance with appropriate health recommendations, therefore, is one of the primary goals of the counseling team.

figure 25.1. Sample pedigree with standard nomenclature to illustrate family relationships and disease information.

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