Free cancer genetic risk assessment for eligible individuals

SAN ANTONIO (March 20, 2014) – March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which is the perfect time to emphasize the UT Health Science Center’s genetic risk assessment and testing program in San Antonio, Laredo, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Called GRACIAS, the risk assessment program is free to eligible individuals.

Colon cancer is the third-most common cancer diagnosis and cause of cancer death in both men and women in Texas. But an increased use of screening tests has contributed to a decline in these deaths. Colon cancer generally occurs in adults over the age of 50, and for most people a baseline colonoscopy at age 50 can dramatically decrease the risk of dying of colon cancer.

Changes in diet and lifestyle factors are likely to have a substantial overall impact on risk of colon cancer; however there are other risk factors that cannot be changed. Some of those include the genetic predisposition to develop colorectal polyps, a personal or family history of colon cancer, increasing age, certain diseases that cause inflammation of the large intestine or ulcerative colitis and certain genetic changes.

Sometimes families carry a genetic trait that increases the risk of colon cancer. This is especially likely when someone in the family is diagnosed at a young age. Also, women in families with a strong history of colon cancer may be at increased risk of cancer of the uterus. In both colon and uterine cancer, early detection has been proven to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome with long-term cure.

If a person has a family history of colon cancer, particularly if a family member has been diagnosed when younger than 50, genetic risk assessment can help determine whether genetic counseling or testing would be a good idea.

These services are offered by the UT Health Science Center academic sites in San Antonio, Laredo and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Individuals interested in a cancer genetic risk assessment may contact the Genetic Risk Assessment for Cancer in All South Texas (GRACIAS Texas) program staff to schedule an appointment. GRACIAS is funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Lower Rio Grande Valley
Phone: (956) 202-2148

Phone: 956-740-7668

San Antonio
Phone: (210) 718-3570


How does genetic counseling help predict an individual’s risk of colon cancer?

Genetic counseling refers to a screening that includes the review of personal and family health history where genetic counselors can identify specific family history patterns associated with an increased risk for developing hereditary cancer and recommend genetic testing when appropriate.

What is a genetic counselor?

A genetic counselor is a heath professional with specialized training and experience in the areas of counseling and medical genetics that helps people understand and adapt to the medical, familial, and psychological implications of how genetics contributes to disease. A genetic counselor collects and studies personal and family medical history, provides information on genetic testing, interprets the genetic test results, and guides individuals/ families in discussions about prevention and medical management in a manner that promotes informed choice.

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing is a type of medical test that analyzes the DNA in blood or saliva to identify changes in genes. This voluntary test can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition or help determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder. Genetic testing is not appropriate for everyone, and the decision about whether to be tested is a personal and complex one. A genetic counselor can help by providing information about the pros and cons of the test and discussing the social and emotional aspects of testing.


The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit

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