Genetic Counseling


ON THIS PAGE:

Should I See a Genetic Counselor or Genetic Specialist?

What will I do in a Genetic Counseling Session?

Will the Genetic Counselor tell me what to do?

Where can I find a Genetic Counselor?

Will my insurance cover the cost of my Genetic Counseling Session?


Should I See a Genetic Counselor or Genetic Specialist?

We highly recommend visiting a genetic specialist before undergoing decisions about genetic testing. Geneticists, Genetic counselors, and Advanced Practice Nurses in Genetics are trained in the many options, possibilities and outcomes of testing for BRCA and other genetic conditions. Genetic specialists offer expert advice on what to do in your specific circumstances, and help you work through the multiple emotions and decisions associated with this information.

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What will I do in a Genetic Counseling Session?

Genetic specialists can help you find out if there is an inherited tendency to develop cancer in your family by doing a “cancer genetic risk assessment.” The genetic specialist will take a very detailed family medical history that includes information about all cancers and medical conditions in your sisters, brothers, children, parents, aunt, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

The genetic specialist uses this information to figure out whether your family has an increased chance of developing specific cancers, who in your family has an increased chance, and how big the chance might be. The genetic specialist can also estimate the chance that the cancers in your family are due to a gene change (mutation) that is being passed through your family.

As part of a cancer genetic counseling session, the genetic specialist will provide you with information about what your family can do to try to find cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage. If you have an inherited tendency to develop cancer, you may need to start screening at an earlier age than is usual for the average person. Genetic specialists will also discuss ways you or your family can potentially lower your chance of getting cancer.

For more information on genetic counseling, please visit:

Genetic Counseling
by the Human Genome Project

Frequently Asked Questions About Genetic Counseling
by National Human Genome Research Institute

Find a Genetic Counselor in your Area
by the National Society of Genetic Counselors

Elements of Cancer Genetics Risk Assessment and Counseling
by National Cancer Institute

Genetic Cancer Risk Assessment and Counseling: Recommendations of the National Society of Genetic Counselors
by National Guideline Clearinghouse

Informed Medical Decisions

Genetic Consultation
As part of the National Institutes of Health Genetics Home Reference Guide

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Will the Genetic Counselor tell me what to do?

No, a genetic counselor's primary concern is helping their client (you) to make informed decisions about your health, and to help you adjust to complex information, uncertainties or new diagnoses. Genetic Counselors can also help you figure out ways to discuss this difficult information with your family and friends. You should not expect that what is right for another client will be right for you, as each individual has different circumstances and different decisions.

For more information on what to expect in a Genetic Counseling Session, please visit:

FAQs about Genetic Counselors and the NSGC

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Where can I find a Genetic Counselor?

A listing of genetic counselors in the USA and around the world can be found on the NSGC website using the Find a Counselor search tool, searchable by: Zip Code and Distance, Name or Company/Institution (Quick Search), and Name, Area of Practice, or Area of Specialization (Advanced Search).

You can also use the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genetics Service Directory, searchable by cancer type, syndrome (such as BRCA mutations), city and state.

For more information on finding a genetic counselor, please visit:

Find a Genetic Counselor in your Area
by the National Society of Genetic Counselors

How to Find a Genetic Counselor
by Genetic Health

Frequently Asked Questions About Genetic Counseling
by National Human Genome Research Institute

NCI Cancer Genetics Service Directory

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Will my insurance cover the cost of my Genetic Counseling Session?

Genetic counseling services are often covered like any other specialist’s services. However, it is important to check with your insurance provider before your appointment. Some insurance plans require a referral from your primary care doctor in order to get coverage for a genetic counselor’s services. If genetic testing is recommended, genetic counselors will work you and the testing laboratory to determine the level of coverage you have before doing any genetic testing.

For more information on insurance and BRCA mutation, please visit:

Finding Health Care: Financial Help
compiled by FORCE

Genetics and Health Insurance
by National Conference of State Legislatures

Cancer Genetic Counseling Insurance Issues/Genetic Discrimination article Update on Genetic Discrimination
by Yale Cancer Center

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