Genetic counseling FAQs
How can genetic counseling help you?
If you have a family history of cancer, genetic counseling can help you:
- Determine if you and your family are at increased risk for certain types of cancer.
- Obtain personalized information regarding cancer detection, prevention and treatment.
- Decide whether genetic testing is right for you.
What happens during a clinical genetic counseling appointment?
The goal of genetic counseling is to provide understandable information about your risk of hereditary cancer in a supportive and educational setting. You will meet with a genetic counselor who is specially trained in cancer genetics, which means that you will get a thorough and accurate assessment of your risk of hereditary cancer. The genetic counseling appointment usually takes about 60 minutes. The length of your appointment will depend on the complexity of your medical and family history.
During your genetic counseling appointment, the genetic counselor will:
- Ask about your medical history and your family history of cancer.
- Address your questions and concerns about your risk for cancer and the possible risk to your family members.
- Discuss important medical information in terms you can understand.
Finally, you will have the opportunity to discuss:
- Whether genetic testing could be useful in determining your risk for hereditary cancer.
- Recommendations and referrals for cancer detection and prevention that are designed just for you.
- Coping with the risk of cancer that runs in your family.
- Clinical genetics research studies that may be available to you and your family.
What is genetic testing?
Genetic testing is a laboratory test, usually done on a blood sample, which can help us determine your risk for cancer. Genetic testing may help you and your physician make important decisions about your medical care. Deciding whether or not to have genetic testing is a personal choice that can be made at the time of the counseling session or at a future date.
You will receive a cancer risk assessment from your genetic counseling session whether or not you undergo genetic testing; you are not required to have genetic testing if you come for a genetic counseling appointment. However, you must receive genetic counseling before we will perform a genetic test. Genetic counseling allows us to obtain the necessary information to give you accurate information about the risk of hereditary cancer, to determine if a genetic test would be useful, to determine which genetic test is appropriate, and to help you and your family make informed decisions about your medical care.
Who can participate?
Genetic counseling is available to anyone who is concerned about a personal or family history of cancer. A specially trained genetic counselor provides a personalized assessment of your risk of hereditary cancer; discusses cancer detection, management, and risk reduction options; and offers genetic testing when appropriate.
Who can benefit from genetic counseling?
If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you may benefit from genetic counseling:
Have you or a close relative been diagnosed with cancer at age 50 or younger? Has more than one member of your family been diagnosed with the same type of cancer? Have you or a family member been diagnosed with more than one type of cancer? Are you related to someone who is known to have a genetic condition or mutation that increases the risk of cancer?
We understand that many personal factors must be considered when making decisions regarding cancer detection, prevention and genetic testing. These include your medical issues, your state of mind, your beliefs and your family's experience with cancer. The genetic counselor can address your concerns with sensitivity and support, and tailor each counseling session to fit your personal needs.
Is genetic counseling for cancer and genetic testing covered by insurance? What if I don't have insurance? What if I have Medicare or Medicaid?
Many insurance companies will cover genetic counseling and/or genetic testing. Your doctor’s office may need to obtain pre-authorization from the insurance company for you to obtain coverage. If you are covered by an insurance company, you can contact the company regarding your coverage and any pre-authorization that may be needed. If you do not have insurance, or if you are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, you can contact our office at 859-323-2222 with your questions regarding coverage. To help determine whether your insurance will cover genetic counseling, download and follow the instructions on this form (PDF, 18 KB).
Can genetic testing affect my insurance?
Federal law (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) makes it illegal for health insurers to use genetic information to deny insurance coverage, change the terms of coverage or increase individual premiums. If you have concerns about the effect of genetic testing on your insurance, they will be addressed during the genetic counseling appointment.
What about my privacy?
We will not release information about your hereditary cancer risk assessment to anyone other than you and your referring physician without your prior written consent.
Is clinical genetic counseling right for me?
If you think genetic counseling might be helpful to you, discuss it with your doctor.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call the UK Markey Cancer Center's Clinical Genetic Counseling Program at 859-323-2222 or 1-866-340-4488 toll free.