Genetic Counseling

Cancer Risk Assessments

If someone in your family was diagnosed with cancer, you may be wondering if you are at a risk of developing it as well. When your family has a history of cancer you are at an increased risk, but that does not mean you need to live in constant fear that it will appear one day.

The Genetic Counseling Program is a cutting-edge cancer risk assessment that reviews your family’s medical history and provides you with a comprehensive guide on your risk factors and what you can do to prevent cancer.

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Assessing Your Cancer Risk Factors

Once you’ve made an appointment with a genetic counselor, we will provide you with a family and personal history questionnaire. Learning more about your family’s history with this disease is key to determining your risks and allows us to customize your session based on your situation.

During your first appointment, our board-certified genetic counselor will discuss the questionnaire with you and give you some preliminary information. If you are an eligible candidate for genetic testing, we may ask for a blood sample.

The Benefits

Worrying that you may one day develop cancer takes a tremendous toll on your mental health. These tests can help put your fears to rest by using evidence-based practices to determine your risk factors once and for all.

Even if you discover that you do have an increased risk of cancer, knowing what to look out for will allow you to more easily identify the early stages of cancer and seek medical treatment before it has a chance to spread.

Additionally, we can advise you on an appropriate screening schedule for any cancers you are at an increased risk of developing.

Much of the damage done by cancer occurs because people are unable to diagnose it fast enough. Knowing what preventive care measures to take will allow you relieve stress and live your life to the fullest.

Frequently Asked Questions About Genetic Counseling

scientist holding gene modelWhat is genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates:

  • Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
  • Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research.
  • Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition.

What is a genetic counselor?

Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. The American Board of Genetic Counseling certifies genetic counselors through board exams and accredits genetic counseling training programs. The National Society of Genetic Counselors is the professional membership association.

Who should be referred for genetic counseling?

It is important to remember that there are many different cancer syndromes. The types of cancer and ages of onset of cancer observed in the patient and their family are what determine which genes should be tested. In general, if a person is diagnosed with cancer before the age of 50, diagnosed with a rare cancer or multiple primary cancer, and/or has an unusual amount of cancer in their family which cannot be explained by exposure or advanced age, a referral to a genetic counselor is indicated.

The most common cancers seen for genetic evaluation are breast, ovarian, colon and uterine cancer.

An assessment for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is indicated when the patient has a personal and/or family history of:

  • Breast or ovarian cancer before the age of 50
  • Male breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with personal and/or family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • 3 or more breast cancers, any age
  • Bilateral breast cancer
  • 2 or more ovarian cancers, or breast and ovarian cancer
  • Known mutation in ANY family member

An assessment for hereditary colorectal cancer is indicated when the patient has a personal and/or family history of:

  • Colorectal or endometrial cancer before the age of 50
  • 2 or more colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, gastric or urinary tract cancers
  • Multiple colorectal polyps

What is the benefit of genetic counseling and testing?

In many cases, patients overestimate their cancer risk. Genetic counseling can help put their risk into perspective and provide them with appropriate screening and prevention guidelines to discuss with their physicians.

Genetic testing may identify a family at substantially increased risk to develop cancer. Specialized screening methods, more frequent screening and cancer prevention methods have been shown to improve survival rates.

Does insurance pay for genetic testing?

YES, most insurance plans do pay for genetic testing when medically indicated. Each insurance company (including Medicare) has a personal/family history criteria which must be met to obtain approval. Many labs also have a charity care program for low income, uninsured patients.

What about insurance discrimination?

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law designed to prohibit the improper use of genetic information. GINA prohibits group health plans and health insurers from denying coverage or charging that person higher premiums based solely on a genetic predisposition to developing a disease in the future. The legislation also bars employers from using an individual's genetic information when making hiring, firing, job placement or promotion decisions. This law does not protect against life insurance discrimination.

To schedule an appointment for genetic counseling, call 844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.

Patient Stories

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    Steve & Brian
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