Genetic Counseling

The goal of the Penn State Cancer Genetics Program is to provide individuals with information and guidelines based on their family history and/or genetic test results that will help in the prevention and early detection of cancer.

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center offers extensive counseling through our program, including: 

  • A detailed evaluation of your family history and other risk factors.
  • An assessment of your personal cancer risks.
  • Discussion of genetic testing when appropriate, including risks, benefits and limitations.
  • A thorough review of prevention and screening options.
  • A full written report summarizing your counseling sessions.
  • Research studies to better understand the various causes of cancer. 

In order to provide an accurate risk assessment, medical records are requested to document the family history of cancer.

Cancer genetic counseling is provided in a personal and confidential manner. All medical information is regarded as your personal property. We will not release any information from your medical records, including genetic counseling and test results without your prior written authorization.

Penn State Cancer Institute adopts a universal screening policy for Lynch Syndrome effective October 14, 2013

Up to 3% of colon cancers are due to an inherited susceptibility associated with Lynch Syndrome, also known as Hereditary Non-polyposis Colorectal Carcinoma Syndrome (HNPCC). Individuals with Lynch Syndrome have up to an 80% lifetime risk for colon cancer, a 40-50% risk for a second colon cancer, a 60% lifetime risk for uterine cancer, and increased risks for other cancers including ovarian, small bowel, stomach, and urinary tract tumors. Additionally, relatives of individuals with Lynch Syndrome are at risk to have inherited this condition. Identification of Lynch Syndrome allows for optimal treatment decision making, and may include alterations in surgical management or surveillance. In addition, detection of Lynch Syndrome represents a significant opportunity for intervention for the patient's family members. Effective October 14, 2013, all individuals diagnosed with a colorectal cancer at our Cancer Institute will be offered screening for Lynch Syndrome.

For more information about the Penn State Cancer Genetics Program or to schedule an appointment at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, or Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, please call 717-531-1631 or the Penn State Hershey CareLine at 800-243-1455.

Maria Baker

Maria J. Baker, Ph.D.,FACMG, M.S., CGC  is a Genetic Counselor/Medical Geneticist of the Penn State Cancer Genetics Program. She is also an Professor in Medicine.

Her special interests include hereditary cancer syndromes, genetic testing, ethical, legal and social issues relating to cancer predisposition.

Dr. Baker is board-certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics and the American Board of Genetic Counseling.  She received her Masters Degree in Genetic Counseling from the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh and her Ph.D. in Medical Genetics from the Pennsylvania State University.

Rio Friday

Wendy L. Glatfelter , M.S., L.G.C. is a licensed genetic counselor for the Penn State Cancer Genetics Program. Her special interests include hereditary cancer syndromes, education, and ethical issues in genetics, as well as in medicine. She has previously worked in both pediatric and prenatal genetics. Glatfelter is board-certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and licensed through the state of Pennsylvania. She received her master’s degree in science for genetic counseling from the University of Pittsburgh after completing her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and biomedical science from Juniata College.

For more information about the Penn State Cancer Genetics Program, or to schedule an appointment, call 717-531-1631.


Chandra Somerman, Genetics Counselor


Chandra Somerman is a licensed genetic counselor for the Penn State Cancer Genetics Program.

Somerman is board-certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She received her master’s degree in genetic counseling from Boston University School of Medicine after completing her Bachelors degree in bio-behavioral health at Penn State. 

If you are not in proximity to the Penn State Cancer Institute and would like to find a cancer genetics program closer to your home, you can click on either of the two links listed below: 


Factors that may Increase your Risk for Cancer

While everyone has some risk of developing cancer, genetic testing may not be appropriate for all families. The following factors may determine when genetic testing is appropriate: 

  • History of cancer in a relative or personal history of cancer, especially when diagnosed at an early age.
  • A relative with several different types of cancer (not due to spread or metastasis from the initial cancer site).
  • Multiple relatives with the same or different cancers.
  • Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry on your mother or father’s side of the family.
  • A rare cancer in one or more family members.
  • A known cancer susceptibility syndrome in the family such as:
    • Hereditary Non-polyposis Colorectal Cancer (Lynch Syndrome)
    • Familial Adeomatous Polyposis
    • Hereditary Breast-Ovarian Cancer Syndrome
    • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
    • Von-Hippel-Lindau Syndrome
    • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia
    • Retinoblastoma
    • Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma Syndrome

The Cancer Genetics Program is proud of its accomplishments to date, but there is much work to be done. Although genetic counselors are now licensed in Pennsylvania, they are not yet recognized by a number of major insurers. Your tax-deductible contribution will help ensure that individuals referred to the Cancer Genetics Program can meet with a qualified genetic counselor and have their questions answered, regardless of their ability to pay.

Learn how to make a secure online gift here.

Your support is vital to the families we serve, especially since knowledge is power when it comes to cancer. Thank you for empowering our patients!