Genetic Counseling and Testing
Most cancer happens due to chance or other risk factors, however, in some families, there is an increased risk of cancer due to a gene alteration (mutation) that can be inherited. Having knowledge of such genetic mutations in a family can allow individuals to make informed decisions regarding cancer prevention through screening, surgeries or additional medical management options.
What is a genetic counseling session?
During a genetic counseling session, you will meet with a specially trained health professional and discuss your personal health history and/or family history of cancer. This is done to determine your risk of having a genetic mutation that can cause an increased chance of cancer.
What should I expect at a genetic counseling session?
Genetic counseling sessions typically take between 1-2 hours. During this time you will discuss your medical history and family history. Typically, a family history questionnaire will be sent to you before your appointment. This questionnaire is important in gathering relevant information about the family history of cancer and will be used to determine your individualized cancer risk assessment.
Who should consider genetic counseling?
Individuals who have a personal and/or family history that includes any of the following may benefit from a genetic counseling session:
• Breast, colorectal or uterine cancer diagnosed at an early age (age 50 or younger) or ovarian cancer at any age
• Multiple family members diagnosed with cancer in multiple generations
• Several family members diagnosed with the same cancer
• Two or more types of cancer have been diagnosed in the same person
• A family member has already been diagnosed with a hereditary cancer
• Rare tumors
Why should I have genetic counseling?
One of the primary goals of genetic counseling is to clarify hereditary cancer risks. This information may be beneficial to you and your family. Genetic counseling also provides information and options so you can make an informed decision about genetic testing and your cancer screening and/or management.
Is there a fee for genetic counseling?
There is no charge for the genetic counseling at the John Stoddard Cancer Center, a service of UnityPoint Health - Des Moines. There is a fee for lab work and genetic testing. Many laboratories will facilitate pre-authorization from insurance companies before the genetic test is started, and many insurance plans provide good coverage for genetic testing. Scheduling a genetic counseling session does not mean that you have to undergo genetic testing. The decision to have genetic testing is a personal decision. John Stoddard Cancer Center does provide genetic testing if that is something you're interested in learning more about.
Based on the cancer risk assessment, genetic testing may be recommended and an appropriate risk reduction plan can be developed by trained genetic professionals and physician(s). This may include careful monitoring or periodic screening tests, changes in diet, exercise or other lifestyle factors, and the use of cancer risk reduction agents or surgeries.
Genetic testing is not for everyone, as there are many issues that require careful consideration. By meeting with a genetic professional you can make a more informed decision about whether genetic testing is appropriate for you and/or your family.