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Genetic Counseling

What Is Genetic Counseling?

Genetic counseling is the process of providing information and support about genetics and inherited conditions to an individual or family. Our genetic counselors provide clear and relevant information about genetic risk factors to support and educate our patients.

What Is a Genetic Counselor?

A genetic counselor is a health care professional with 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 a Genetic Test?

During a cancer risk assessment, the genetic counselor will discuss the option of genetic testing for you or your family to consider. Genetic testing involves analyzing a blood sample for genetic mutations that may contribute to an increased risk for some cancers. Genetic testing is a personal choice and can be made at the time of the counseling visit or at a future date.

Why Is Genetic Testing Done?

Genetic tests are performed to assess the likelihood of hereditary cancer in the family. Our genetic counselors will discuss this assessment with each patient.

Who Is Eligible for Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing is available for families with a strong family history of certain types of cancer. During your cancer risk assessment, the experts at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center will determine if genetic testing is right for you and your family. It is best to begin genetic testing with a family member who has had cancer or a precancerous condition. Your genetic counselor will discuss who the best person in the family is to consider genetic testing.

What Can I Expect During Genetic Testing Consultation?

Genetic testing involves analyzing a blood sample for specific changes in the DNA or genetic information.

The first genetic consultation visit typically lasts between 60 and 90 minutes. During the risk assessment, your counselor will discuss:

Medical and Family History Review

A genetic counselor will obtain information about the patient’s personal medical history as well as a cancer-focused family tree including many generations. Patients will be asked to complete the Genetic Risk Assessment questionnaire and bring it to their initial genetic counseling appointment.

Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment

Your genetic counselor will assess the likelihood of hereditary cancer predisposition in the family and will discuss the assessment with the patient. When medically indicated, this will also include a discussion around any relevant genetic testing.

Discussion Regarding Genetic Testing

A genetic test involves testing blood to find genetic mutations that can contribute to an increased risk for some cancers. At Banner MD Anderson, we counsel our patients on the ethical and legal issues of genetic testing. Patients who appear to be appropriate candidates for genetic testing based on their family history of cancer will be given information about the available tests.

Cancer Screening and Prevention Recommendations

Each patient will receive information on the methods available to reduce their risk of cancer based on family history or genetic test results. This information can include a discussion of screening strategies, chemoprevention, and prophylactic surgery. Patients are sometimes referred to high-risk screening clinics for further discussion and long-term follow-up as needed.

Learn more about Genetic Counseling.