Understanding Genetic Counseling and Testing

What is Genetic Counseling and Testing

Cancer genetic counseling is the process of collecting your detailed personal and family history, assessing your personal risk, and discussing your genetic testing options. These services should be provided by a counselor who is board-certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.

Genetic tests of blood and other tissue are used to identify genetic disorders and can help determine a more precise estimate of your cancer risk. Although a cancer risk assessment can be provided without genetic testing, in some cases testing may help you and your physician make important decisions about your medical care.

Should I Consider Counseling and Testing?

Genetic counseling is typically recommended for people who have a personal and/or family history suggestive of a heredity cancer condition. It is important to know, however, that having a family member with cancer does not automatically mean you are in a high-risk category.

Am I At Risk?

Everyone has some chance of developing cancer. In most cases, the cause of cancer is unknown and happens by chance. However, five to 10 percent of all cancer is hereditary and caused by a genetic change that increases the risk of developing cancer. These genetic changes can be passed from generation to generation within a family.

Risk Factors

If you or a close relative have had any of the following, you may want to consider genetic counseling and testing:

Genetic Counseling Steps

Genetic counseling includes several steps and may require more than one appointment. A meeting with a genetic counselor typically includes:

Most common hereditary cancers are breast, ovarian and colorectal. Remember, cancer is not inherited, only the gene mutation that increases the risk factor of developing cancer.

Red flags for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC).

Red flags for Lynch Syndrome (Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC).

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