What is Genetic Counseling?

Cancer genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized education and experience. We educate and support patients who may have a family history of cancer. If your physician suggests you meet with a cancer genetic counselor your personal health history and family history will be reviewed to determine the likelihood that you or your family may have an increased risk of cancer. The genetic counselor will explain your risk, signs and symptoms of cancer, other risk factors, and current research. The genetic counselor will discuss the pros and cons of available genetic testing which in some cases can show that an inherited gene is occurring in a family, raising the risk for certain family members to develop cancer. Most importantly the genetic counselor will discuss recommendations for screening and prevention of cancer based on test results not only for you but also for other family members. At so locations you also meet with a medical oncologist who will review your information, screen for current signs or symptoms of cancer and help to answer medical questions about cancer.

We hope to empower you and your loved ones in making informed and independent decisions relating to your health. Genetic counselors also provide supportive services to their patients directly or by referring them to appropriate community support services such as support groups, local and national organizations for the genetic disorder, etc. Genetic counselors respect your culture, religion, and opinions in order to provide options and support that fall within your morals and beliefs.

Do I need to see a Genetic Counselor?

A referral to a cancer genetic counselor may be appropriate if you meet some of the following criteria:

  1. You or family members were diagnosed with breast cancer under age 50.
  2. You or family members were diagnosed with bilateral breast or ovarian cancer (both breasts or ovaries affected).
  3. You or family members were diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age.
  4. You are male with breast cancer or a male family member has breast cancer.
  5. You are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
  6. You have three or more family members with breast/ovarian or other cancers.
  7. You have two or more family members with early onset (under age 50), breast/ovarian or other cancers.

If you are interested in meeting with a genetic counselor please contact your primary care or oncology physician for a referral. If you would like more information on genetic counseling, click on www.nsgc.org.