Genetic counseling

If cancer seems to run in your family, consider taking an important, and possibly lifesaving step — genetic counseling. It can empower you by providing information about:

  • Your cancer risks.
  • The likelihood that your family's history of cancer is hereditary.
  • Options for genetic testing.

Not every patient needs the full panel of genetic testing. Instead, HonorHealth develops your testing plan based on your family history and individual needs, saving you money and focusing on the right genetic targets.

If you have cancer, the ability to use your genetic makeup for a more targeted treatment plan is a strength of the HonorHealth Virginia G. Piper Cancer Care Network. The goal of genetic counseling is to prevent cancer, or to detect it as early as possible by identifying if you're at increased risk for the disease.

Another big advantage of genetic counseling here is that you can connect your treatment to your genetic makeup through a clinical trial.

What is genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling helps you and your family understand your chance of developing cancer. Hereditary cancers occur when you’re born with a mutation (change) in a gene, which normally protects against cancer.

Inherited risk may be passed from either parent to child. Through genetic counseling and testing, you can determine if you or your family member's cancer is hereditary or more likely to be environmental.

Meeting with a genetic counselor

If testing finds a predisposition to cancer, a certified genetics counselor will guide you through possible changes to your health management. Change might include more frequent screenings or having screenings done at an earlier age. Genetic counselors are highly educated in all aspects of genetics and are trained to communicate complex concepts in understandable ways.

Genetic counselors evaluate your family history and discuss the implications, limitations and benefits of genetic testing. HonorHealth counselors are certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.

When to consider seeing a genetic counselor

Consider genetic counseling if you answer "yes" to any of these statements:

  • I have a personal history of cancer diagnosed under the age of 50 (not including non-melanoma skin cancer and/or cervical cancer).
  • I have two or more close blood relatives on the same side of the family with a non-smoking related cancer (such as colon, uterine and/or ovarian cancer).
  • I have two or more relatives on the same side of the family who have the same type of cancer (not including non-melanoma skin cancers and/or cervical cancer).
  • I have a relative who had cancer before age 50.
  • I have a family member who has had multiple cancers.
  • I am of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • I have a personal and/or family history of rare cancers (such as male breast cancer or childhood sarcoma).

Print out the information for the Cancer Genetics Risk Assessment and Prevention Program (PDF).

Do you need genetic counseling before having genetic testing?

Yes, genetic counseling is crucial to understanding the purpose, possible results and implications of a genetic test. Many genetic testing options are available. Genetic counselors have the expertise and tools to choose the most appropriate genetic tests, testing laboratory, and technology for you. To ensure appropriate testing, some insurance companies require genetic counseling prior to covering a genetic test.

Cancer gene testing process

Genetic testing involves taking a blood or a saliva sample to screen for genetic mutations related to increased risk of cancer.

Genetic testing may not be right for everyone. You’ll discuss your situation with your genetic counselor before making a decision.

Insurance coverage for genetic testing

Insurance coverage varies. Most insurance companies cover the costs of genetic counseling and testing. Each insurance company has different policies regarding coverage. If you choose to have genetic testing, you’ll be informed about any potential out-of-pocket costs or if a physician referral is required. The expert team at the HonorHealth Virginia G. Piper Cancer Care Network will guide you through this process.

Make an appointment

Call 623-434-6138 to schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor.