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Genetic Counseling - 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 healthcare 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 a cancer risk assessment, a genetic counselor will discuss the option of genetic testing for you or your family to consider. Genetic testing involves analyzing a blood sample for specific 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.

What Can I Expect During My First Visit to a Genetic Counselor?

During your cancer risk assessment, the genetic counselor will discuss whether genetic testing is an option for you or your family to consider. They will also help you understand the role genetics play in causing cancer.

Genetic testing involves analyzing a blood sample for specific changes in the DNA. The decision to undergo genetic testing is a personal decision and can be made at the time of your counseling visit or at a future date.

Once the decision to move forward with genetic testing has been made, the genetic counselor will perform a cancer risk assessment based on the information you have provided. You can expect the initial genetic consultation visit to last between 60 and 90 minutes.

During the risk assessment, your genetic counselor will discuss:

  • Your personal cancer risks
  • The chances that the risk of cancer might be passed through the genes in your family
  • Any additional recommended genetic testing that could be helpful in determining the risks for your family
  • Appropriate screening and prevention for you and your family

If deemed eligible, you will receive information about the research programs available at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

How Many Visits Will I Need?

The number of visits you will need to attend throughout the process will be determined by your genetic counselor after the cancer risk assessment. These visits typically depend on the follow-up of additional family history information, whether you or a family member decides to have genetic testing and the complexity of your situation.

Can Family Members Come to My First Appointment?

Yes, you are welcome to invite anyone to come with you (family, friend, etc.) to your appointment. Keep in mind that you will be the 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. Based on this information, individuals should thoroughly consider whether or not to undergo 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 whom 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 additional 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 tests ordered. The genetic counselor will determine the specific genetic tests that are 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 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 the letter of medical necessity to your insurance.

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 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.