What to Expect
Why see a cancer genetic counselor?
Tip #1: If you are considering genetic testing, then genetic counseling is the recommended first step.
Genetic counselors are trained and have the following core set of skills:
- Deep and broad knowledge of basic science and genetics
- Ability to tailor, interpret and communicate complex information in an understandable manner for a variety of audiences
- Strong interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness
- Ability to dissect and analyze complex problems and situations
- Research and self education skills
- In-depth knowledge of healthcare delivery
Some kinds of cancers run in families (ex. breast, ovarian, colon, etc.). If you have cancer at a young age (typically age 50 or younger), have had two or more cancers, or have several family members that have been diagnosed with cancer, you may think about genetic counseling and possibly genetic testing. Personal or family history of a rare type of cancer often constitutes a referral to cancer genetics.
A cancer genetic counselor will evaluate your family history in detail and talk about the risks for an inherited cancer syndrome, as well as screening and management for those at elevated risk. If genetic testing is warranted, the counselor will work with the patient to decide from the many available tests, which test is most appropriate for you.
If you have had cancer, genetic testing could provide insightful information for you and your care team in terms of making decisions about cancer management.
If you have not had cancer, genetic counseling and possibly testing can help you understand your risk for cancer and the risks for other family members, which you share genetic information with.
In both cases, genetic testing may be useful to you and your medical team to make decisions regarding screening and prevention options. It could also be beneficial for siblings, parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. to know if this impacts their risk.
A genetic counselor can also provide you with supportive resources for individuals with cancer, increased risk to develop cancer and individuals with inherited cancer syndromes.
To learn more about genetic counselors visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors.
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