Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to genetic testing and counseling, many questions probably come to mind. Below are some of our most frequently asked questions:

What is genetic counseling and who are genetic counselors?

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 an atmosphere of support and education.

Genetic counselors are health care professionals with graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. Most enter the field with a background in biology, genetics, nursing, psychology, public health or social work.

What is genetic testing?

During your cancer risk assessment, the genetic counselor will discuss whether genetic testing is an option for you or your family to consider. Genetic testing involves analyzing a blood sample for specific changes in the DNA, or genetic information. The decision to have genetic testing is a personal choice that can be made at the time of the counseling visit, or at a future date.

What can I expect during my first visit to a genetic counselor and how long will it last?

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. We will discuss the chance that a risk for cancer might be passed through the genes in your family and discuss any genetic testing that could be helpful for your family. We will also give you a general estimate of your personal cancer risks. During the risk assessment, we will discuss appropriate screening and prevention for you and your family. If eligible, you will be given information about research programs at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The first genetic consultation visit will usually last 60-90 minutes.

How many visits will I need?

Once a genetic counselor has met with you for your cancer risk assessment, she can discuss with you how often you may need to be seen again. This often depends on follow-up of additional family history information, whether you or a family member decides to have genetic testing and the complexity of the situation.

Can family members come with me to my first appointment?

You are welcome to invite anyone to come with you (family, friend, etc.) to your appointment, but you will be the main focus of the consultation. If you bring a friend or family member with you and they have specific questions or concerns, it may be necessary to schedule a separate appointment for them.

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.

Is genetic testing recommended for all patients?

Genetic testing is available for some families with a strong family history of certain types of cancer. During your cancer risk assessment, we will help you decide if genetic testing is right for you or your family. It is best to begin genetic testing with a family member who has had cancer or a precancerous condition that suggests susceptibility to cancer. The genetic counselor will discuss who the best person in your family is to consider genetic testing.

Will I need to fast before my blood draw for genetic testing?

No. There is no special preparation before you have your blood drawn for genetic testing. Patients typically have one to two tubes of blood drawn for testing. The genetic counselor will explain the process of genetic testing before you have your blood drawn to answer any of your questions and concerns.

How accurate is genetic testing?

Once a genetic test is determined to be appropriate for you or your family, the genetic counselor will discuss with you the sensitivity of the test (ability to detect genetic changes).

How much does genetic testing cost?

The cost ranges from $350 - $4,000 or more, based on the specific test ordered. The genetic counselor will determine the specific genetic test that is recommended for you and discuss the cost of testing prior to ordering any genetic testing. Some insurance companies cover the cost of genetic testing.

Will my insurance cover my genetics visit?

Our services are covered by many insurance companies. In order to verify if your insurance company will cover your visit, please contact your Patient Financial Services Specialist.

If your insurance requires a letter of medical necessity for your genetic counseling visit to be covered, please contact your referring physician and ask them to provide your insurance the letter of medical necessity.

If you choose to undergo genetic testing, the genetic counselor will discuss insurance coverage and letter of medical necessity. The genetic counselor will not be able to write a letter until after you have received a cancer risk assessment.

How long will it take to get my genetic test results?

At the time of your blood draw, the genetic counselor will discuss with you the estimated length of time it will take the lab to analyze your sample. The range is usually from two weeks to one month. The genetic counselor will contact you with your test results when they become available. If a follow up appointment is necessary to discuss your results, the genetic counselor will inform you at the time you are contacted.