Genetic counseling is a discussion to look at and understand your family’s chance for having an inherited disease. During your appointment at the Cone Health Cancer Center, a genetic counselor will review your family history and talk to you about the chance for having an inherited cancer syndrome run in your family.
The information below summarizes how genetic counselors can help you, what a genetic test is, steps to take before meeting a counselor, and what it costs.
Why Get Genetic Counseling or Testing?
The cause for most cancers is unknown. However, inherited cancer syndromes cause 5 to 10 percent of cancers.
Examples of cancers that can run in families include:
If you have cancer of any type, genetic testing can help you and your doctor:
- Understand why you developed cancer
- Make decisions about how to treat your cancer
- Make decisions about cancer screening and prevention.
Genetic testing can also help your family members know if they could be at risk for getting cancer.
Who Gets Tested?
People often think that genetic testing only helps those who have not had cancer. However, a family member who has already had cancer may be the best person to test.
Also, if you have a personal or family history of young or multiple cancers, your doctor might also advise you to have genetic testing.
Examples of people who might benefit from an appointment with a genetic counselor, are those who:
- were diagnosed with cancer at age 50 or earlier.
- have a relative who got cancer at age 50 or earlier.
- have two primary cancers (two original tumors).
- are a man with breast cancer.
- were diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
- have three family members on the same side of the family with the same types of cancers or related cancers (e.g., breast & ovarian cancer; colon & uterine cancer).
- are of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry and have a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Genetic testing is not right for everyone. Your genetic counselor will give you the information you need to help you decide if it is right for you
Counselors are located at the Doris S. Tanger Center for Patient and Family Support at Cone Health Cancer Center, 2400 W. Friendly Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27403
To schedule an appointment, call 336-832-0754.
Preparing For Your Visit
Because some diseases run in families, the more you learn about your family’s health history, the more you can share with your genetic counselor. To help you collect your family healthy history, you should talk with your family members. It might take some time and require conversations with relatives.
Before your appointment with Cone Cancer Genetics, please complete this questionnaire about your family history of cancer.
You might even want to send the form to relatives, so they can complete it. Important questions include:
- Who in your family had cancer?
- What kind of cancer did they have?
- How old were they when they were diagnosed?
- Did they have cancer more than once?
- How is this person related to you?
When you make an appointment, you will be asked to sign up for MyChart, a secure an online portal that gives you access to your medical information. If you sign up for MyChart when you make your appointment, a family history questionnaire, similar to the one above, will be sent to you via MyChart. Once you gather this information, you can submit it online and then it will be shared with Cone Health’s genetic counselors. The genetic counselors will be able to review and evaluate it before your visit.
What to Bring to the Visit
- Your family member’s genetic test results, if necessary
- Any genetic test results you have had
- Any notes from your family history form
- A written list of questions you have.
At Your Visit
Appointments with our genetic counselors last 30 to 60 minutes. Using the family medical history you provide, our genetic counselors will:
- review any risks you might have
- explain genetic testing that can confirm whether you have a specific condition
- order the right test for you, if any are needed.
Most genetic tests are done through a simple blood sample drawn at the time of your appointment. Most laboratory testing is completed in about three weeks.
Costs and Other Important Information
Genetic testing is not right for everyone. Your genetic counselor will give you the information you need to help you decide if it is right for you.
Genetic testing is not as costly as some people think. Many times, your health insurance will cover it. There are two parts to the billing. One is the appointment with the genetic counselor at Cone Health Cancer Center. The second is the off-site laboratory’s genetic testing. Most patients will have less than $100 out of pocket expenses once insurance is billed. Laboratories are willing to work with those families who have higher costs. Financial assistance might be available through the testing companies if the cost is high.
Many people are worried about genetic discrimination if they do genetic testing. A law passed in 2008, called the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA) protects most people against health insurance and employment discrimination. Please see the GINA website for more information.