What are family cancer clinics?
While most cases of cancer are not due to a history of cancer in the family, for a small number of people, their family history suggests they may have a genetic risk. This means their chance of developing cancer could be higher than the average population.
Familial or family cancer centres help support people who are worried about their risk of developing cancer due to their family history, Services include counselling, medical advice, research opportunities and information. They also provide genetic testing where appropriate.
Ask your GP about your risk and if you need a referral to a family cancer clinic.
Learn more about genetics and cancer risk
Getting a referral
For most family cancer centres you will need a referral from your General Practitioner (GP) to access the service. You can discuss this process with your GP, or you can call the centre directly and ask them about their referral requirements.
Questions to ask about this service
When looking at a service it is important to ask questions about how the service works before you decide to engage with them. Below is a list of questions you might like to ask when enquiring about a service.
Am I eligible?
Some services have specific criteria that a person must meet before they are able to use a service, for example location, means testing or a specific cancer type. It is important to know if you are eligible to access a service right from the start.
Do I need a referral?
Some services require a referral from your specialist, GP or a social worker. This helps to make sure that the right patients are being connected with the right services. It’s a good idea to ask if a referral is needed and if so, exactly what type of referral the service requires.
How much will this cost me?
Some services are free, and some come at a cost. At a time when people should be focused on their treatment and recovery, the cost of cancer can be a source of stress and worry for many. It’s a good idea to ask about the fees attached to a service and if there are any subsidies or benefits you might be eligible for before committing to the service. It’s important to know that you are within your rights to ask about the cost of a service or treatment before agreeing to take part. For more information you can visit cancer and your finances.
Is there a wait time?
Sometimes demand for a service is high which can cause wait times. You might find it helpful to ask if there are any wait times for the services you are looking at, especially if you require support as soon as possible.
What services do you offer?
Some organisations provide a range of services for people affected by cancer, their family, friends and carers. It is a good idea to ask about exactly what services are available to you.
Health professionals you might see
When you visit a service there are a range of health professionals you may see. There could also be other health professionals you see at this service that are not included below.
A medical doctor who specialises in managing patients who have or are at risk of a genetic condition.
Provides information, support and counselling to individuals and families before and after genetic testing. Genetic counsellors can clarify your risk, discuss what management plans may be appropriate and can discuss the limitations, potential benefits, disadvantages and appropriateness of genetic testing.
Regional Family Cancer Clinics
There are a number of family cancer centres that provide visiting services to regional areas. To find out more speak to your GP about the closest available service.
Tested positive for a cancer gene?
Knowing that you carry a gene that increases your risk of cancer can be stressful. It will mean more frequent medical appointments as well as the emotional stress of knowing you have the gene and that you may have passed it onto your children. Talking about your concerns with someone who ‘has been there before’ may assist.
Cancer Council Victoria’s Gene Connect program matches people with a trained volunteer who has a similar lived-experience and can discuss concerns and share experiences. Conversations are confidential and take place over the phone at a time that suits you.
You can access Gene Connect whether you have just discovered your genetic risk, have taken preventative measures or are considering doing so, or have a cancer diagnosis. For more information call an experienced cancer nurse on 13 11 20 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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