GENETIC COUNSELING AND TESTING
Counseling to help you decide if testing is right for you.
What you need to know
Most cancer cases don’t have an identifiable inherited component. But sometimes, knowing more about your family background can help you make important choices to help reduce your risk—or to screen more often for cancer. Our genetic counseling services can give you important facts to help you find out if you have genetic markers that indicate you are at a higher risk for cancer.
Some of the reasons you might explore genetic counseling services are:
- A personal or family history of cancer or rare tumors, especially before age 50
- Certain ethnic backgrounds such as Ashkenazi Jewish, French-Canadian, Icelandic, Scandinavian and certain Polynesian ethnic groups
- Cancer associated with inherited cancer syndromes such as medullary thyroid carcinoma
- Personal or family history of a known genetic mutation linked to cancer
- Anxiety about your personal risks of developing cancer
Talk with your doctor about whether you should consider genetic counseling or testing.
What you can expect
Our counselors will begin by asking you questions to help determine your risk. They ask you about your family health history and may discuss lifestyle or diet changes. They also remind you of screening recommendations and may order additional genetic tests.
Genetic testing is done with chromosome, DNA and biochemical genetic studies. Tests for cancer susceptibility genes are usually done by DNA studies. There are many kinds of genetic tests used for many reasons including:
- Diagnostic genetic testing: Used to find or confirm the diagnosis of a genetic condition
- Presymptomatic genetic testing (also known as predictive genetic testing): Used to find out if a person with a family history of a disease, but no symptoms, has the gene changes of the disease and if the disease is present before symptoms start
Issues to think about
The decision to get genetic counseling is a personal one. There are some important issues you may want to think about first:
- Finding a mutation (a change in genes) that may cause cancer does not tell you when, or even if, you may get cancer. However, you may learn important ways to reduce your risk.
- Finding out that you don't have a mutation may help reduce your worry. But it could also add to a sense of guilt or inner conflict if other family members do have it.
- Test results in one person may hint at information about other family members that they do not wish to know. Think about talking with your family about this before being tested.
- Finally, there is a chance that people who have never had cancer, but with a higher genetic risk for cancer, could be discriminated against. This could be for life insurance or other types of insurance.. The legal situation is still developing, but there are federal and Oregon state laws that protect confidentiality, particularly in the areas of employment and health insurance, and the federal Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA) also addresses privacy.
Genetic testing for cancer risk
Checklist for considering genetic counseling
National Cancer Institute: Genetic testing fact sheet
National Cancer Institute: Cancer genetics risk assessment
Schedule your genetic services appointment
Legacy Genetic Services offers complete genetic counseling, risk assessment and testing (when suggested) for those with an increased risk for developing cancer and other adult-onset conditions.
Our specialists work with you to gather personal and family history information in advance to provide the most complete evaluation possible.