Cancer Genetic Counseling

Before genetic testing, ask for genetic counseling.

Woman’s genetic counselors can help you understand your genetic risks for certain diseases, such as cancer, or for passing an existing disease on to a child. 

Genetic counseling can lead to the earliest detection of diseases you may be at risk of developing. But it’s simply not enough to know if you have a potentially harmful genetic mutation. A genetic counselor can correctly interpret your test results, help you understand your test results and your risks. 

In the case of genetic testing for cancer, a genetic counselor can also discuss:

  • How frequently you should be screened
  • If your children should be screened
  • Whether any preventive surgeries could reduce your risk

Taking the Right Genetic Tests 

Genetic counselors can ensure that the genetic tests you take are the best fit for you personally. Genetic testing is not a screening test (like a mammogram or colonoscopy) that is one-size-fits-all. It is only necessary to test genes that would affect the part of the body in question, like the breasts. 

Let’s consider two scenarios. Both women would like genetic testing for breast cancer: 

  1. Jane has a family history of breast cancer only. She may only need 10 genes analyzed (of course this depends on many factors that genetic counselors analyze while reviewing a family history), and it is unnecessary to test more than that. 
  2. Ann has a family history of colon, uterine and breast cancer, so in her case, more genes would be necessary to make sure all possible genetic mutations were accounted for during that testing. 

These two women, if they had similar-sized families and similar inheritance patterns of cancer, would not receive the same genetic testing.