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Genetic Counseling
Review expert guidelines regarding who should consider genetic testing, how to find a genetics expert and how to move forward with testing.

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Genetic Counseling

What is genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling consists of an appointment with a genetics expert in-person, by telephone or by video. Genetic counseling usually involves an in-depth discussion of the following:

  • Your personal and family medical history
  • The benefits and limitations of genetic testing
  • Genetic privacy and discrimination laws

Once they evaluate your personal and family medical history, a genetic counselor will discuss other tools that may further clarify your risk for cancer, including genetic testing. A genetic counselor will not try to talk you into or out of testing but will discuss its benefits, risks, costs, and limitations.

Why is genetic counseling important?

Consulting with an expert in cancer genetics is the best way to ensure receiving the most up-to-date and credible information. Whether you are considering genetic testing or you have already received your results, it is important to include a genetics expert as part of your healthcare team. Cancer genetics is a rapidly changing area of medicine, and recommendations for cancer screening, prevention and treatment are constantly changing. Having a genetic counselor with whom you can consult on a regular basis will help you make any necessary adjustments to your medical routine as new information emerges. Visit our page on finding healthcare experts to find a genetics specialist.

Genetic counseling before genetic testing

If you decide to proceed with genetic testing, the counselor will:

  • Fill out the paperwork and assure that the proper test is ordered.
  • Work with your insurance and the testing facility to assure coverage for the test or help you find resources for low-cost testing if insurance won't pay.
  • Collect either blood or a cheek swab sample for the test and submit it to the appropriate laboratory.

Genetic counseling after genetic testing

Once your results have returned from the lab, the counselor will schedule a post-test disclosure apppointment. This appointment is important; the genetic counselor will:

  • Interpret and explain test results and what they mean for you and your relatives
  • Provide you with your cancer risk estimates based on your test results
  • Outline appropriate cancer risk management and treatment options
  • Provide referrals to for follow-up screening and risk management, and suggest any relevant clinical trials

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Last updated February 02, 2022