Genetic Counseling and Testing
Genetic counseling provides a time to meet with a genetic counselor to evaluate your personal and family medical histories, perform risk assessments, and order genetic testing. Risk assessments provide you with information about your chance of having a genetic condition related to your referral.
To be seen in the Genetic Counseling Clinic, you will need a referral from your provider. A genetic counseling session lasts about one hour, and is free of charge. Call (515) 241-4607 for more information or to make a referral.
What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing reads through the letters of your DNA to look for a genetic answer to you or your family's health conditions. There are many different types of genetic tests that look at specific parts of your DNA.
Having a genetic counseling session does not mean that you are having genetic testing. The genetic counselor will explain the testing process so that you can decide if it is right for you. They will also discuss insurance coverage and the cost of testing. Genetic testing often requires a blood draw, but saliva samples are an option for some tests.
If testing finds a disease-causing variant or a variant that increases your chance of developing illness, you will be given information on screening, surgeries, or other medical recommendations that can help better prepare a plan for early detection or prevention of that illness. In the case of genetic testing during pregnancy or for family planning, you will be given reproductive management and testing options. This information will be sent back to your doctor so that you can develop a care plan together.
Reasons someone may benefit from genetic counseling:
Personal and Family History of Cancer
Some families have an increased risk for developing cancer due to variants in their DNA that can be passed from parents to children. Knowing about inherited cancer risk can help individuals and their doctors make informed decisions regarding screening, surgery, and other medical management options to detect cancer early or prevent cancer.
Who could find cancer genetic counseling to be helpful?
Anyone who has a personal and/or family history that includes any of the following:
Cancer diagnosed at an early age. Examples: breast cancer diagnosed at 45 years old or younger, colorectal or uterine cancer diagnosed at 50 years old or younger
Ovarian, pancreatic, or metastatic prostate cancer diagnosed at any age
Multiple family members diagnosed with the same cancer
Two or more types of cancer diagnosed in the same person
Family member diagnosed with a hereditary cancer syndrome via genetic testing
Preconception and Prenatal
Genetic counseling and testing may be helpful for couples considering a pregnancy or who are currently pregnant and want to better understand the chance that their current or future pregnancy could have a genetic condition.
Who could find cancer genetic counseling to be helpful?
Who could find preconception and prenatal genetic counseling to be helpful?
Anyone considering pregnancy or currently pregnant may see a genetic counselor for any of the following:
- Genetic testing to determine the chance of having a pregnancy with a genetic condition known to be present in the family
- Carrier screening to determine their chance of having a pregnancy with a genetic condition not present in the family history
- Anyone with positive findings on a screening or diagnostic testing results performed during pregnancy
Someone in the Family had a Positive Genetic Testing Result
The Genetic Counseling Clinic at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines offers genetic counseling and genetic testing to help central Iowans determine their risk for developing cancer. When someone in a family has a disease-causing variant found on a genetic test, their family member can get genetic testing to see if they also have the familial variant. This may help them determine their chance of developing the genetic condition found in their family member. Besides cancer, some test results may be related to heart or blood diseases. Those who could benefit the most from this service are those with a family member who has a diagnosis confirmed by genetic testing.
What is a genetic counselor?
Genetic counselors are health care professionals that are trained to evaluate your personal and family medical histories, perform risk assessments, and order genetic testing. Our genetic counselors have master's degrees from certified genetic counseling programs and are licensed by the state of Iowa to provide these services. They also work to ensure that they are up to date on the latest guidelines so that you can be sure you are receiving the best genetics care.
Should I prepare anything before seeing a genetic counselor?
Start thinking about the health of family members, approximate ages, any cancer diagnoses, any diagnoses of the condition of interest, their ages at the time of diagnosis, etc. The genetic counseling clinic may call you with questions or send you an online questionnaire before the session to help you start thinking about these questions. This information will help the genetic counselors provide you with the most accurate assessment of your risk. Based on the information provided, the counselor can tell you if you meet testing guidelines and how this impacts insurance coverage and the cost of testing.
If a family member has had genetic testing, please try to send a copy of the genetic test report to the clinic in advance of the appointment. This will help the genetic counselors prepare for the appointment and determine genetic testing options.