Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center

Amy clark

At the Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center, we provide genetic counseling to help women and men identify their genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as other cancers. We assist individuals with cancer as well as those who may be at an increased risk for cancer.

Our program is designed to:

  • Help men and women understand their genetic risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and other cancers
  • Obtain and assess detailed family history information for a possible inherited cancer condition
  • Provide expert genetic counseling and the option of genetic testing
  • Arrange genetic testing and provide consultation regarding results
  • Provide tailored medical recommendations
  • Review outside genetic testing results and make recommendations for follow-up
  • Coordinate screening and long term follow-up care for those with a known inherited genetic risk for cancer
  • Review medical history and lifestyle risk factors
  • Provide a written summary of a genetic consultation
  • Evaluate eligibility for participation in research studies
  • We also provide information for those who have been diagnosed with cancer and are interested in learning about the role of genetics in their disease. We hold education and support programs periodically throughout the year for men and women at high risk for developing cancer.

A Premier Research Program

Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center is backed by our breast cancer research program - one of the few programs of its kind approved and funded by the National Cancer Institute. In recognition of its expertise, the National Cancer Institute has selected the Abramson Cancer Center as one of eight institutions for the Cancer Genetics Network. This select group of cancer centers work together to conduct cancer genetics research.

Every day, more than 40 Penn scientists and physicians work to increase their knowledge about breast and ovarian cancer and to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease. Because of these efforts, research advances can more quickly benefit patients.

Our researchers have conducted landmark studies that are shaping the future of cancer care including:

  • A landmark study showing that a prophylactic double mastectomy can lower the risk of developing breast cancer in women genetically pre-disposed to breast cancer.
  • Mapping the genetic changes that occur in breast cancer among women with no significant family history, women with multiple family members who have breast cancer and African American women who have BRCA1/BRAC2 mutations that may increase susceptibility to breast cancer.
  • Studying the biologic effects of pregnancy among women who are younger when they have children to better understand their lower-risk of breast cancer. The goal is to determine if there is a gene or protein activated during pregnancy that prevents breast cancer and identify a way to use that knowledge to benefit all women.
  • Conducting a first of its kind study to determine whether women at high risk of breast cancer can use exercise to meaningfully reduce their risk of getting the disease.
  • Contributing to new standards in treatment and risk prevention, including a landmark study that showed that bilateral prophylactic oophorectomy (BPO) reduces risk of ovarian cancer when the surgery is performed prior to menopause.

As one of the nation's largest cancer research centers, Penn investigators benefit each day from their collaborations and interactions with more than 400 scientists and physicians at the Abramson Cancer Center.

A Team Approach

When at risk for breast or ovarian cancer, patients need to have complete confidence in their medical team.

Our cancer risk team at the Abramson Cancer Center offers:

  • Nationally recognized experts with years of experience in breast and ovarian cancer risk
  • Advanced diagnostic testing, treatments and technologies
  • Innovative clinical trials
  • Coordinated care
  • Support services and education programs
  • A reputation for sensitivity and responsiveness
  • Personalized attention
  • Our team includes physician specialists from different disciplines including radiology, pathology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, plastic surgery, and cancer rehabilitation.

The team also includes:

  • Nurses and genetic counselors with advanced training and experience in helping people concerned about breast and ovarian cancer risk
  • Patient Support Specialists who are committed to making sure that your experience is as smooth as possible 
    • Our patient support specialists are experts in navigating complex health care situations. They serve as a consistent point of contact and a reliable source for support and direction for patients and families.
  • Cancer counselors work exclusively with cancer patients and their families
    • They are available to provide individual, couples or family counseling. The team includes a psychologist and psychiatrist who specializes in the issues that cancer patients face. Our cancer psychiatrist is available for counseling, prescribing medications and consulting with your team of Penn cancer specialists.
  • Registered dietitians who can provide nutritional counseling for patients being treated for cancer at the Abramson Cancer Center
    • Our dietitians specialize in cancer nutrition and provide information based on sound nutritional therapies.