Some types of cancer are passed on from one generation to the next. Sutter Cancer Centers’ Cancer Risk Program offers a comprehensive approach for people who may have inherited a greater risk of developing cancer. We work with patients and families individually to determine the best course of action.
Genetic counseling is a communication process that translates technical and complicated knowledge into practical information for you and your family. An individual is usually referred for counseling by a healthcare provider. Genetic counseling helps individuals:
- Determine the likelihood that cancers in a family are inherited.
- Discuss options for early identification of cancer and risk reduction.
- Provide information about the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing.
- Coordinate genetic testing and to provide accurate interpretations of the results.
- Provide referrals to appropriate research studies.
Why Seek Genetic Counseling?
There are many reasons why people consider genetic counseling. For you, it may be because you’ve had cancer and are concerned about the risk of additional cancers for yourself and family members. It could also be that a close family member or several family members have had cancer and you want to determine your risk. You and your family should consider testing if:
- Your mother, father, siblings or children develop cancer.
- You had cancer at an early age.
- A family member had cancer at an early age.
- A family member had a positive gene test for a cancer with a genetic cause, such as breast or ovarian cancer.
- You are of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.
The decision to pursue genetic counseling and testing is an individual choice. One of the goals of the genetic counseling session is to help you work through the decision-making process regarding testing.
What to Expect
Prior to your appointment, a family and medical history questionnaire will be mailed to you to complete and return. At your first appointment, the counselor will go over the questionnaire and collect additional information. During the session, the counselor will discuss whether testing is appropriate and potential cancer risks to other members of your family. The genetic counselor will also provide recommendations for future cancer screening methods for you and your family members.
Based on your family history of cancer, genetic testing may be appropriate. Genetic testing services are performed at nationally accredited laboratories. Depending on the test ordered, results may take as long as six to eight weeks. Your genetic counselor will schedule a follow-up visit with you to discuss your results.
What’s the Cost?
Some health plans cover genetic counseling and testing. Individuals at increased risk for cancer may also require screening tests at an earlier age or at a higher frequency than is usually recommended. Insurance coverage for such tests may be provided by individual plans. Clinic staff can assist you in understanding your insurance coverage.