Cancer Genetics Program Director Presents Study at National Society of Genetic Counselors Conference

WASHINGTON -- Nicole E. Thompson, MS, genetic counselor and director of the Howard University Cancer Center Genetics Program, is presenting research at the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) 34th Annual Education Conference in Pittsburgh, Oct. 21-24, 2015.

Her research centers on ways to increase awareness in genetic counseling among minority populations. She found that African-American and Hispanic women with breast cancer or with family histories of the disease likely will see a genetic counselor when given the opportunity to meet with one who is culturally competent.

The Howard University Cancer Center experienced a 40-fold increase in patients seeking guidance when a culturally competent genetic counselor, who is also a woman of color, joined the staff. After her addition and educating doctors about the service, more than 200 patient encounters occurred within 21 months, including women seeking guidance regarding their genetic risk for cancer. Prior to the addition, only a few patients per year were referred for genetic counseling, as the service was limited to prenatal care.

Of 100 women of color diagnosed with breast cancer participating in a research study at HUCC, 54 met the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s (NCCN) guidelines for genetic evaluation and testing. This prompted the addition of the new genetic counselor who specializes in cancer, understands the needs of the community and views health equity as important.

“Because of several factors, many people assume that minorities are not interested in genetic counseling,” Thompson said. “This assumption is the complete opposite of our experience. When patients have the opportunity to speak with a genetic counselor who looks like them, sounds like them, and can meet them where they are, they begin to open up and feel empowered.”

NSGC is the leading voice, authority and advocate for the genetic counseling profession, representing more than 3,000 health care professionals. The organization is committed to ensuring that the public has access to genetic services. For more information, visit www.nsgc.org.

For more information about genetics counseling at Howard University Cancer Center, contact Thompson at  (202) 865-1691 or nthompson@huhosp.org.

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