Genetic counseling and testing can help you understand your risk for certain cancers or potential prenatal complications. Our genetic counselors offer detailed information in an understandable format to help each patient process the results.
Need a specialist? Search our physician directory for help finding a cancer care specialist who is right for you.
Genetic Counseling and Testing for Cancer
Cancer genetic counseling is the process of collecting your detailed personal and family history, assessing your personal risk and discussing your genetic testing options. Genetic tests are tests of blood and other tissue used to identify genetic disorders and can help obtain a more precise estimate of your cancer risk. Although a cancer risk assessment can be provided without genetic testing, in some cases testing may help you and your physician make important decisions about your medical care.
Genetic counseling includes several steps and may require more than one appointment. A meeting with a genetic counselor typically includes:
- A detailed review of your medical and family history
- Assessment of your and your family's risks of developing cancer
- Explanation of your genetic test results and options for cancer screening, prevention and treatment options, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, or in some cases, preventive surgeries.
When to consider cancer genetic counseling
Genetic counseling is typically recommended for people who have a personal and/or family history suggestive of a hereditary cancer condition. It is important to know that having a family member with cancer does not automatically mean that you are in a high-risk family. If you or a close relative have had any of the following, you may want to consider genetic counseling:
- Two or more close relatives on the same side of the family with cancer, especially of the same type
- Cancer at a young age (under age 50)
- More than one diagnosis of cancer in the same individual, such as breast and ovarian, or colon and uterine cancer
- Rare cancers, such as male breast cancer
- One or more relatives with a known hereditary cancer gene mutation
Genetic Counseling and Testing for Prenatal Disorders
If there is a family history of a birth defect or genetic disorder, your doctor may recommend that you meet with a maternal and fetal medicine physician or a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors provide specialized counseling for patients of advanced maternal age as well as those with positive maternal serum screening results or abnormalities identified on an ultrasound examination. The genetic counselor will also provide up-to-date information about genetic tests, treatments, research options, support organizations and community resources that are available.
Every effort is made to provide families with the necessary information to make the best decisions for them based on their own religious, cultural and moral beliefs.
When should you consider prenatal genetic counseling?
You should consider genetic counseling if:
- You will be 35 or older at delivery
- You have a history of multiple pregnancy losses (miscarriages) or a stillbirth
- You have a medical condition that is associated with an increased risk of birth defects (e.g. diabetes)
- Maternal serum screening indicated that your baby is at increased risk for Down syndrome (trisomy 21), trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) or spina bifida
- An ultrasound examination has detected a birth defect in the developing baby
- You or your partner has a family history of a genetic condition (e.g. muscular dystrophy), birth defect (e.g. cleft lip/palate) or intellectual disability
- You or your partner has had a positive screen for cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia or another genetic condition
- You have been exposed to certain medications or other agents during your pregnancy that may cause birth defects such as alcohol, street drugs, chemicals or infections