Preparing for Your Session | What to Expect During Your Session | What to Expect After Your Session
Undergoing a genetic evaluation can be empowering, giving you information to make decisions that can positively impact your health or that of your loved ones. Genetic counseling serves as a first step for determining if genetic testing is right for you and/or available to identify specific genetic conditions. A genetic consultation can help answer questions for the woman who wonders why she has ovarian cancer. Or allay concerns of the son whose mother has cardiomyopathy and wants to know his risk or that of his children. Or provide a couple with a roadmap for future family planning.
With more than 2,000 genetic tests available today, experience and training in genetic counseling ensures that you receive the best guidance possible. At the Center for Medical Genetics, our Genetic Counselors have extensive experience counseling individuals interested in knowing their risks for a broad range of inherited diseases from the most common cancers to the unusual muscular disorder. They have the clinical knowledge to recommend appropriate testing and interpret results. All of our counselors hold master’s degrees in genetic counseling and are accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.
A genetic consultation at the Center for Medical Genetics is a confidential outpatient visit with a Genetic Counselor and a Medical Geneticist. Most insurance policies cover genetic consultations.
Preparing for Your Genetic Counseling Session
Before your appointment at the Center for Medical Genetics, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire and intake form to help provide us with details of your personal and family medical histories.
Useful information about your personal history include medical records or test results pertaining to the disease of concern; biopsy results and tumor evaluations; and/or reports of diagnostic imaging studies such as X-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds.
Basic details about your relatives (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces and nephews) are also important for a genetic counseling session. Specifics may include current age and health status, or age at death and cause of death.
Consider asking a family member or friend to join you when you visit the Center for Medical Genetics. Family members can often fill in the gaps about your family history. We review a great deal of technical information. A support person can provide another set of “ears” and additional perspective on the options available to you.
What to Expect During Your Genetic Counseling Session
Upon arrival, you’ll meet first with a Genetic Counselor and then a Medical Geneticist. The Genetic Counselor will discuss your health concerns, review your personal and family history and draw a family tree. Based on the information you provide, the counselor will:
- Look for diseases and conditions in your close and extended family members that may indicate a genetic factor. The development of leukemia in your elderly grandmother may not be of concern but a diagnosis of breast cancer in your 30-year-old sister could signal a hereditary trait.
- Recommend genetic testing options and discuss the benefits and limitations of various types of DNA-based tests. These range from single gene testing that focuses on specific genetic variants such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 in breast and ovarian cancers and can yield definitive answers to cancer gene panels that look at multiple genes simultaneously but may provide ambiguous findings.
- Review the cost of genetic testing and health insurance coverage. Many genetic tests for commonly inherited cancers or cardiovascular disorders are now routinely covered by third-party payers.
- Assist you in your decision-making. Learning that you could develop a hereditary condition can be emotionally trying. You may face difficult medical choices and challenging family dynamics. Knowing that you are at risk for a genetically-caused disease affects not only you but potentially others in your family. Our compassionate and understanding Genetic Counselors can provide emotional support and help connect you and your family members to support services and community resources.
As part of the genetic counseling session, after seeing the Genetic Counselor, you will meet with one of our experienced and trained Medical Geneticists. Board certified in adult and/or pediatric medicine as well as clinical genetics, these experts will review your personal and family history and provide recommendations for genetic testing, if appropriate. At this time, if your family history is strongly suggestive of a hereditary condition, our Medical Geneticists may advise preventative health measures including advanced and more frequent screening for disease as well as proactive medical management that could include drug therapy or surgical options.
If you decide to undergo genetic testing, the medical genetics team will arrange for the collection of a small sample of your blood. Some tests may only require a simple saliva sample that will be collected by your Genetic Counselor at the conclusion of your appointment.
What to Expect After Your Genetic Counseling Session
Depending on the type of genetic testing you undergo, the results can take as little as one week to as many as eight weeks to obtain. Your Genetic Counselor will:
- Call you with the results whether they are positive, negative or uncertain. Our counselors can provide test results at an office visit for patients who would like to receive their results in person.
- Ask you to return to the Center for Medical Genetics for a follow-up appointment if your genetic test result is positive. At this time, you will meet with both the Genetic Counselor and Medical Geneticist to discuss preventive medicine options including more aggressive screening and medical management.
- Provide you with a variety of resources, including referrals to medical and surgical specialists experienced in screening, preventing and treating hereditary diseases.
Our genetic counseling services don’t stop once you have learned your test results. Our team is always available for follow-up questions or to respond to any concerns. As technology and knowledge in medical genetics advances, we continually update our patients with any new information that may impact and optimize their care and that of their loved ones.