Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in medical genetics. Genetic counselors work as members of a health care team, providing information and support to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions, including hereditary cancer syndromes. They identify families at risk, investigate the condition present in the family, interpret information about the condition, analyze inheritance patterns and risks, identify appropriate genetic tests, interpret genetic test results and review available options with the family.

One benefit of genetic counseling is that you will learn about how your family history of cancer (or pre-cancerous findings) affects your cancer risk. Once you know your risk, the genetic counselor will help you develop a strategy to reduce risks for you and your relatives. Another benefit of genetic counseling is that a genetic counselor is specially trained to accurately interpret any genetic testing results for you or your family. Genetic tests require complex interpretation, and results are often not straightforward.

A patient care coordinator (PCC) from InformedDNA will call you to schedule your appointment and provide you with instructions to register as a patient through the secure online patient portal. Before your appointment, you will be asked to complete information about your personal and family history of cancer. This information is an important part of providing you with accurate information about your risks. You may need to contact some of your family members in order to complete this information. The family history questionnaire is usually done online and takes ˜20 minutes. Please be sure you have time to complete it as you cannot save a partially finished questionnaire.

Genetic counselors are trained to evaluate and interpret your personal and family history to assess your risk for cancer or a hereditary gene mutation. Genetic counselors use a variety of models to provide you with an accurate risk assessment. It takes time to run these risk assessments. Providing this information ahead of time allows your genetic counselor to fully prepare and will shorten the overall length of your appointment.

At your appointment time, your genetic counselor will call you at the number you provided. During the appointment, your genetic counselor will review important pieces of your family history, ask additional specific questions and discuss how your information affects your cancer risk and medical management options. Your genetic counselor may ask you to contact your family members or request medical records to increase the accuracy of your risk assessment. You will also discuss how your personal and family history affects your family members’ risks. Most appointments last 45-60 minutes but may last up to 75 depending on your questions. In order to get the most out of your appointment, please schedule it during a time when you will not have any outside interruptions.

Most commercial insurance companies will cover most or all of the cost of genetic counseling. Prior to your appointment, the InformedDNA team will contact your insurance company and verify what your out-of-pocket cost will be for the appointment. You will be notified before your appointment what the total cost for genetic counseling will be. If genetic testing is indicated for you, your genetic counselor will discuss the cost of testing as well the process of insurance authorization for the testing before it is done.

No, genetic counseling will help you understand whether you could benefit from genetic testing. Your genetic counselor will discuss with you the benefits and limitations of testing specific to your personal situation. If you choose not to have genetic testing, or you are not an appropriate candidate for genetic testing, your counselor will still discuss your personal risk assessment and recommendations for screening based on your family history.

Following your appointment, you and your doctor will get a report from your InformedDNA genetic counselor that summarizes all of the information you discussed during your appointment, including a copy of your family tree (pedigree). This report is important for your medical care and may also be useful to share with your family members.

You will be contacted by one of the InformedDNA patient care coordinators (PCCs) by phone as soon as we send them a referral from your physician.

For more information or to schedule your genetic counseling appointment, please call the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center at Parkridge Medical Center at (423) 495-1865.