What is genetic counseling?
Genetic counseling is a process of providing information and support about genetics and inherited conditions to an individual or family. The goal of genetic counseling is to provide clear and clinically relevant information about genetic risk factors in a way that both supports and educates.
What are genetic counselors?
Genetic counselors are health professionals with graduate degrees and experience in medical genetics and counseling. Most enter the field with a background in biology, genetics, nursing, psychology, public health or social work.
Why do I need genetic counseling?
You do not have to see a genetic counselor if you do not want to. However, your physician may have recommended genetic counseling because of your personal or family history of cancer. If you are interested in a personalized cancer risk assessment and/or having genetic testing for a particular gene, you should have genetic counseling first to discuss possible test results as well as the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing. We will also discuss cost, insurance coverage and concerns about genetic discrimination. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that genetic testing only be done in the setting of pre- and post-test counseling.
What can I expect during my first visit to a genetic counselor?
During your first visit, the genetic counselor will review your family medical history and help you understand the role of genes in causing cancer. The genetic counselor will perform a cancer risk assessment based on the information you provide. You will then discus the chance that a cancer risk is passed through the genes in your family, as well as any genetic testing that could be helpful for you or your family. We will also give you a general estimate of your personal cancer risks. During the risk assessment, we will cover cancer screening and prevention for you and your family. If eligible, you will be given information about research programs at MD Anderson.
I just want genetic testing. Why do I need genetic counseling?
Genetic testing is not recommended for everyone. During your cancer risk assessment, we will help you decide if genetic testing is right for you. Genetic testing usually begins with a family member who has had cancer. Individuals should thoroughly consider whether or not to have genetic testing. During the genetic counseling visit, we will discuss any concerns you may have about genetic testing as well as possible results, benefits, risks and limitations of the testing. We will also discuss cost, insurance coverage and issues of genetic discrimination.