Genetic Counseling

Approximately 5-10% of cancer is hereditary. Understanding your future risk of cancer can be valuable information for you and your family.

What Is Genetic Counseling/Genetic Testing?

Genetic counseling is not just taking a genetic test. Our counseling integrates:

  • Interpretation of family and personal histories to assess the risk of developing cancer. Individuals with hereditary cancer are usually at increased risk for multiple cancer diagnoses.
  • Education regarding risk to family members.
  • Discussion of the benefits and limitations of genetic testing options, including affordable and updated testing options.
  • Creation of an individualized cancer risk management plan.

Why Undergo Genetic Counseling?

  • Early Detection and Prevention: Most hereditary cancer is associated with an increased risk for multiple cancer types. Knowledge of this increased risk allows for steps to be taken to detect cancer as early as possible or prevent it altogether. If you currently have cancer, knowledge of your hereditary risk may help to clarify treatment options.
  • Family Members/Relatives: It may be possible to identify which other family members are at increased risk. Relatives can take steps to manage their risk. Other family members might not be at increased risk in spite of having a significant family history of cancer.

Who Should Consider Genetic Counseling?

Your health care providers should be able to help you determine whether you are a good candidate for genetic counseling. The following guidelines can be used to help determine whether genetic counseling may be appropriate for you:

  • Cancer diagnosed at younger-than-typical ages.
  • Multiple relatives who have the same type of cancer.
  • An individual with multiple different types of cancer.
  • An individual with a rare cancer or tumor, such as male breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or paraganglioma.
  • Individuals of certain ancestries, such as Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, who also have breast cancer.
  • An individual with 20 or more colon polyps.
  • Individuals who are concerned about their or their family members’ risk of developing cancer.

What Happens during a Genetic Counseling Session?

  • Questions will be asked about your personal and family histories of tumors.
  • You will receive information about your hereditary risk, as well as how and why hereditary cancer occurs.
  • Genetic testing options will be discussed, including the benefits and limitations of genetic testing for oneself and implications for family members.
  • Cost differs among individuals, but genetic testing has become considerably more affordable over the past couple of years and is often covered by insurance. You will know the cost before testing is done.
  • Testing can be ordered during your appointment. A blood sample is preferable, but using a saliva sample may be possible instead.
  • An individualized risk management plan will be discussed. This may include referrals to other health care providers. Individuals whose results are negative may still be at increased risk.
  • Support resources and information to give to family members may also be provided.

Genetic counseling is offered at several Austin Cancer Center locations. Click here to schedule an appointment for genetic counseling.