Genetic Counseling

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Genetic Counseling

Genetic Counseling and Testing

Approximately 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are inherited – passed down in the family from parent to child. Genetic testing is a way to determine if you are at increased risk for developing certain cancers because of your family history. Genetic counseling is often recommended for people who are diagnosed with cancer at a young age and for families with multiple cases of cancer. Genetic counseling can guide your medical care, including ways to screen for and prevent cancer. The Centra Alan B. Pearson Regional Cancer Center offers hereditary cancer risk assessment, genetic counseling and genetic testing.

The Role of the Genetic Counselor

A genetic counselor is a health professional with specialized training in medical genetics and counseling. Most genetic counselors have a master’s degree in genetic counseling. They are certified through the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Your genetic counselor will educate you and your family about inherited cancer risk, explain available tests and help you arrive at an informed decision as to whether genetic testing is beneficial for you and/or your family. There are defined guidelines as to who may benefit from genetic testing. If you choose genetic testing, your counselor will help coordinate and facilitate the genetic testing process. Your genetic counselor also will support and help you and your family deal with many of the personal aspects of having an inherited cancer risk and can offer information about cancer screening, prevention and treatment options.

Meeting with a Genetic Counselor

In the initial genetic counseling session, which lasts approximately one hour, your genetic counselor will answer questions and addresses any concerns you or your family may have about the chance for an inherited cancer. The counselor will review all medical history, including family members diagnosed with cancer or other medical issues and the ages at which they were diagnosed to establish a pattern or implications for hereditary cancer. If there is an increased risk, your genetic counselor will discuss the benefits and limitations of genetic testing. The counselor also will review with you the current screening and management information related to inherited cancers.

After Genetic Testing

When the test results are available, your genetic counselor will review them with you and help you understand the medical, psychological and social consequences of knowing the test results. After each counseling session, the genetic counselor will write a summary letter reviewing the discussion and outcomes. Copies of this letter will be given to you and to the medical provider who referred you for counseling. If members of your family have questions or concerns, your medical provider can refer them to your genetic counselor for a more personalized assessment.