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Genetic Counseling Frequently Asked Questions

What is genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling is a process that includes collecting a detailed personal and family history, a risk assessment, and a discussion of the genetic testing options. The risks, benefits and limitations of the available testing options and personalized cancer screening and risk reduction recommendations are also discussed in the genetic counseling session.

Can I just have genetic testing without genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling, by a genetics specialist, has been shown to increase understanding and improve outcomes of the genetic testing process. We encourage all patients undergoing genetic testing to first meet with a genetic counselor to ensure that the correct test is ordered and for accurate result interpretation and medical management.

How would I use the results of genetic counseling and testing?

Genetic counseling and testing outcomes, including test results and the collection of detailed family history information, help to estimate a person's true risks of developing cancer, and to develop a personalized plan for surveillance and management based on those risks. It can also be very useful to the entire family. We discuss these issues, in depth, in the genetic counseling session.

Will my insurance pay for genetic counseling?

Most insurance companies cover part, if not all, of the counseling associated with our program. Check your insurance policy to see if you generally require a referral from your primary care physician.

Will my insurance pay for genetic testing?

During your genetic counseling consultation, your genetic counselor will discuss available genetic testing options. Your genetic counselor will also review your insurance carrier’s criteria for genetic testing, if available, to estimate if you qualify.

The price of genetic testing has dropped significantly in the last few years and your genetic counselor will be able to discuss out-of-pocket options with you, if necessary, at the time of your appointment.

Many genetic testing laboratories offer financial assistance programs and your genetic counselor can help you apply if needed.

Are there risks of billing these costs to my insurance company?

It does not appear that billing health insurance companies for cancer genetic counseling or testing represents a major risk. However, future coverage for life and disability insurance may be affected by such services, particularly if you are not a cancer survivor.

Is this a research study or a clinical service?

Cancer genetic counseling and testing are offered as a clinical service. Individuals seen in our program will be invited to participate in our data repository which allows us to share anonymized data with current and future studies to further research in this area. In addition, depending upon your personal and/or family history, you may be invited to participate in other research studies that are available through our program.

What information should I bring to my first counseling session?

The more information you are able to provide about your family health history, the more accurate your risk assessment will be. Your genetic counselor will be asking you questions about your family health history, particularly regarding your brothers, sisters, parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. If any of them have had cancer, it is helpful to know the primary site of the cancer and their age at diagnosis.

Pathology reports are very helpful. If any of your family members have had genetic testing, it is important to attempt to obtain a copy of the actual test results to bring with you or send to our office prior to your appointment.

Do I need a referral from my physician for genetic counseling?

Yes, we do typically require a referral. Please speak with your healthcare providers about whether they feel a referral is appropriate.