Genetic Counseling and Testing

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If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you may be wondering if you or your loved ones could benefit from genetic counseling and testing.

What is a Genetic Counselor?

A genetic counselor is a health care professional with specialized training in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. Genetic counselors provide information and support to people with birth differences or genetic disorders and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as cancer. A genetic counselor will help determine if genetic testing is right for you or your loved ones.

Depending on the reason you are referred for genetic counseling, you may see a genetic counselor with a specific area of expertise.

Who Is a Candidate for Genetic Counseling and Testing?

  • People with a family history of cancer, especially when multiple family members have been diagnosed with the same type of cancer
  • People with a known cancer-causing genetic mutation in the family
  • People diagnosed with rare cancer or cancer at a young age who want to learn whether they could pass it on to their children
  • People who want to share their genetic information with their relatives or doctors

Benefits of Genetic Testing

  • Finding out why cancer is occurring can help resolve uncertainty for you and your
  • Knowing whether your diagnosed cancer is hereditary can help you and your health care providers decide which treatment options are the most
  • Knowing whether the cancer in your family is hereditary can help you and your health care providers take steps to prevent the development of certain cancers in the
  • Knowing whether you are at increased risk for cancer enables you to have more frequent cancer screenings so that if cancer is ever detected, it can be treated
  • Genetic testing provides support for insurance coverage of more frequent screenings and preventive
  • Genetic testing may identify family members who are not at an increased risk for developing

Genetic testing will not tell you with certainty whether you will develop cancer. It can help you understand your risk so that you and your provider can make a proactive plan to manage it.

You can meet with a genetic counselor to discuss the risks and benefits of genetic testing and to determine if genetic testing is a good fit for you. Your genetic counselor also will help you find ways to share your test results with family members who may benefit from knowing test results in order to manage their cancer risk.

How Much Does Testing Cost?

In many cases, health insurance plans will cover the cost of genetic testing when it is recommended by a genetic provider. Coverage and out-of-pocket cost are determined by the insurance company and varies based on the specific policy and patient’s medical history. Insurance companies may cover some tests but not others. Some cover counseling and testing under specific circumstances or criteria that must be met before they agree to cover genetic testing. Check with your insurance company to verify coverage.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) protects individuals from genetic discrimination by health insurance companies and employers with at least 15 employees. GINA makes it illegal for health insurance providers to use or require genetic information to make decisions about a person’s insurance eligibility or coverage. In addition, GINA makes it illegal for employers to use a person’s genetic information when making decisions about hiring, promotion and several other terms of employment. GINA does not protect people from genetic discrimination in every circumstance. It does not apply when an employer has fewer than 15 employees.

GINA does not protect against genetic discrimination in other forms of insurance, such as life, disability or long- term care insurance.

Genetic testing is not for everyone, and each individual must consider the risks and benefits when making a decision. While it is important that you discuss genetic testing with your family, the choice to test is personal. Different members of the family may make different decisions about testing.

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