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Our certified genetic counselors provide patients and families with the knowledge, support, and resources they need to make informed health care decisions based on their reproductive, prenatal, cancer histories and results.

If you are interested in a personalized risk assessment and/or genetic testing, genetic counseling is typically recommended to evaluate the risks, benefits, and limitations of available tests and can be an important part of the decision-making process. Genetic counselors are also available after testing to discuss the results, best possible outcomes, and help you with next steps.

Why you should see a prenatal genetic counselor before or during a pregnancy:

  • You are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and would like to learn more about your genetic testing options
  • You or your partner have a personal or family history of a genetic condition and want to know more about the chances in your children
  • You or your partner have a personal or family history of a birth defect or other health conditions and want to know more about the chances in your children
  • You received an abnormal or high-risk genetic testing result and want to know more about what it means for your pregnancy or future children
  • You have had an abnormal ultrasound finding detected during pregnancy
  • You or your partner have a personal or family history of two or more miscarriages, also called recurrent pregnancy loss
  • You have been exposed to certain medicine, chemicals, alcohol, or other factors and want to learn more about if/how it could affect your baby’s growth and development

A prenatal genetic counselor will ask you and your partner if either of you or your family members have had the following:

  • Chromosome conditions, such as Down syndrome, trisomy 18, or Turner syndrome
  • Birth defects, such as a heart defect, spina bifida, or anything that needed surgery after delivery
  • Genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia
  • Intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, or autism
  • Hearing loss/deafness or vision loss/blindness from birth
  • Two or more miscarriages, a stillbirth, or a child who passed away at a young age due to a medical concern
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia
  • Cancer diagnosed younger than age 50

Why you should see a cancer genetic counselor:

  • You have a family history of a hereditary cancer risk condition, such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, Lynch syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or familial adenomatous polyposis
  • You received positive genetic test results and would like to learn more about your cancer/tumor risk and your options for risk management or risk reduction
  • You were diagnosed with cancer under the age of 50
  • You have a close relative (parent, sibling, aunt/uncle, grandparent) who was diagnosed with cancer under the age of 50
  • You have a personal or family history of being diagnosed with more than one type of cancer
  • You have a personal or family history of multiple relatives diagnosed with the same type of cancer
  • You have a personal or family history of the following cancers or tumors:
    • ovarian cancer
    • pancreatic cancer
    • prostate cancer that is metastatic (has spread to another part of the body)
    • bilateral breast cancer or “triple negative” breast cancer
    • multiple (more than 10) colon polyps
    • pheochromocytoma
    • medullary thyroid cancer
  • You have a personal or family history of cancer or tumors not listed above, and would like to learn more about your eligibility and options for genetic testing
  • You have negative (normal) genetic test results, but would like to learn more about your cancer risk based on your family history
  • You received uncertain/inconclusive genetic test results and would like to understand the result better
  • You had cancer genetic testing in the past and would like to learn more about updated test options

A cancer genetic counselor will ask for details about your personal history and your family history of cancer, including:

  • Details about the specific body part or type of cancer diagnoses for you and/or your relatives
  • Age at the time of diagnosis
  • Family size, including the number of siblings, aunts, uncles, children you have, and their general ages
  • Your personal health screening history, such as your history of mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.
  • Other general health questions, such as your history of surgeries
  • Previous hereditary cancer genetic testing of you or your relatives
For more information about our pediatric and adult genetics services, please visit Clinical Genetics and Genomics.

What to expect at a genetic counseling visit:

  • Introduction. This begins with a conversation about the reason for your visit, including the type of information you hope to learn from your visit and any concerns you may have.
  • Family history. While the family history may or may not be the reason for the visit, all decisions about genetic screening or genetic testing should be made in the context of your full family history.
  • Information and assessment. The genetic counselor provides information specific to your situation, such as the chance to have a child with a genetic condition based on your age during pregnancy, or the risk of a possible inherited cancer condition based on a family history of cancer. In any situation, options for testing and screening are reviewed. Genetic counselors will also explain what the potential results might mean and how the health care team works with you to make management recommendations.
  • Decision-making. The genetic counselor will help you understand the options for screening and diagnostic testing, and consider whether you would like to pursue them.
  • Support. Genetic counselors can address the various feelings that accompany these conversations and decision-making, as individuals may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they are receiving.
  • Follow up. Genetic counselors may help facilitate the genetic testing process and have a role in reporting results when available. They are also a reliable source for additional information or resources as needed.

Ways to prepare for a genetic counseling appointment:

  • Discuss with your partner/family what type of information you are hoping to get from the appointment. If possible, bring your partner or another support person (family member or friend) with you to the genetic counseling appointment.
  • Write down all of your questions about screening and testing options.
  • Obtain details about your family history.


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