Genetic counseling for cancer risk now available in the Rio Grande Valley

SAN ANTONIO (October 30, 2013) – People with a family history of breast and colon cancer can now determine their own risk of developing these cancers through a new program that offers free genetic counseling in the Rio Grande Valley.

Genetic Risk Assessment for Cancer In All South Texas (GRACIAS Texas) is a genetic counseling service offered through the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC). Certified genetic counselors meet with people who may be at higher risk for breast and colon cancer and help them evaluate what their risks are. In some cases, they may recommend genetic testing for the individuals and their closest family members.

“This program is of enormous benefit to families who have a high risk of developing a devastating cancer,” said Gail Tomlinson, M.D., Ph.D., GRACIAS program director and interim Director of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“Many of the families that would benefit the most from cancer screening services would have no access to them without this program,” Dr. Tomlinson said.

The medical community also benefits from the program by getting a better understanding of genetic risks for cancer in the local population, she said.

GRACIAS is funded by a three-year grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Through this grant, certified genetic counselors are able to work with at-risk families in the Rio Grande Valley and cover some of the costs of genetic tests for eligible individuals.

“We offer services to the insured and the uninsured,” said Ivette Torres, RGV program director. “If patients meet criteria, we can help them navigate through their insurance or cover the cost of genetic testing for those with no coverage.”

A person’s genetic risk will first be determined through a telephone interview. If the risk is considered high, they will be scheduled for an appointment at either the RAHC in Harlingen or the Family Medicine Residency Program in McAllen.

To schedule an appointment, call 956-365-8609.

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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