Cancer Genetic Counseling Services
Cancer genetic risk is directly related to an individual’s family history. However, less than 10 percent of cancers are inherited. You may be at greater risk of developing an inherited cancer if you have a family member* with a diagnosis of:
- Cancer before age 50
- A rare cancer such as male breast or ovarian
- Multiple cancers in one individual
*In this context, “family member” refers to first-degree (mother, father, siblings, children), second-degree (aunts/uncles, grandparents, nieces/nephews) or third-degree relatives (cousins, great-aunts/uncles, grandchildren).
While it is not possible to predict who will develop cancer, it is possible to learn more about your cancer risk factors and the strategies for managing risk.
At Providence Genetic Risk Clinics, our genetic counselors help assess your individual cancer risk. The counselor outlines steps to reduce personal risk and detect cancer as early as possible. This may or may not include genetic testing. During the appointment, the genetic counselor will:
- Identify personal cancer risk factors based on medical history and lifestyle factors
- Explain how family history of cancer influences risk
- Determine whether genetic testing is likely to benefit you
- Recommend a personalized set of cancer screening tests
- Provide strategies to reduce cancer risk
Get answers to commonly asked questions about the appointment
The National Society of Genetic Counselors describes genetic counselors as "professionals who have specialized education in genetics and counseling to provide personalized help patients may need as they make decisions about their genetic health."
Genetic counselors can interpret genetic test results and provide information about:
- How inherited diseases may affect you
- How family and medical histories may increase the risk of disease
- Which genetic tests may be right for you and what these tests can reveal
- Making informed decisions about your health care
During your visit, we will:
- Document your personal and family cancer history, and construct an illustrated medical family tree (also known as a pedigree)
- Address your specific questions and concerns
- Provide a personalized cancer risk assessment based on the information provided
- Review the risks, benefits and limitations of genetic testing options to determine if testing is right for you
For individuals who elect genetic testing, it can typically be ordered at the time of the initial consult visit. We will meet with you a few weeks later to discuss the results, and revise your risk assessment and recommendations.
Some people find it helpful to have a support person, such as a friend, spouse or relative, present at a genetics consult to provide an extra set of ears or emotional support. Others may want to bring a sibling or adult child who may be directly impacted by the information discussed.
Whom you choose to accompany you is an individual decision. We encourage you to keep in mind the content of the discussion – your personal medical and family history, and in some cases genetic test results. Please be aware that your support person will be present for this discussion.
- You will receive a detailed personal medical and family history questionnaire to complete before your visit. Keep in mind that it can take time to get appropriate details from family members; therefore, we recommend you start gathering information as soon as possible.
- If you have had cancer, we want to know details about the type of cancer. This can be obtained from pathology reports done at the time of biopsy or surgery. If your treatment was not performed at Providence, we may need your help to request these records.
- Whenever possible, collect medical records (e.g., pathology reports or genetic testing reports) for family members who have had cancer. While this is not mandatory for a genetics consult, it may be necessary to provide specific answers to your questions and the most accurate personal risk assessment. Details about family members who have had cancer may also be necessary to meet the criteria required by your insurance to cover genetic testing.
Health insurance typically covers a consultation appointment, which is independent of any genetic testing cost or authorizations. Most insurance companies also cover the cost of genetic testing for individuals considered at high risk of disease. If you are uninsured, other means of assistance may be available. Please ask us about options.