Cancer Genetic Counseling:
Frequently Asked Questions

I already have breast cancer (or ovarian, colon, uterine, or another cancer)- why should I have genetic testing?

If a gene mutation is found through testing, your current treatment plan may be altered if you haven’t already had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc. If you have already started or completed treatment, more frequent or different screenings may be recommended for you. In addition, your relatives can then also be tested for the same gene mutation and if positive, have more frequent or additional screenings with the goal of preventing or finding a cancer at an early stage.

Is genetic testing covered by insurance?

Each insurance carrier has different policies and criteria for coverage of genetic testing, based on an individual’s personal and family history of cancer. If a person meets the insurance’s criteria, then testing is usually covered in part or completely (excluding deductibles, co-pays, etc). 

If the test finds a gene mutation, will the results affect my health insurance coverage?

There is a federal law, “GINA”, (The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act) that prohibits discrimination by health insurance companies and employers based on genetic information. GINA does not apply to life, disability, or long-term care insurance. GINA does not protect certain individuals, such as those in the U.S. Armed Services. Talk with your genetic counselor if you have more questions or concerns about genetic discrimination. 

Is most breast cancer genetic?

No, the majority of breast cancers are not genetic. Only about 5-10% of cancers can be attributed to a genetic mutation. Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of breast cancer.

Is it true that cancer skips a generation?

It may appear that cancer skips a generation, but the inheritance of gene mutations does not skip a generation. For example, a man may inherit and gene mutation from a parent and pass it on to his daughter- who then develops breast cancer- but he himself does not develop cancer.  Also, not everyone who carries a gene mutation will develop cancer.   

Is the history of breast or ovarian cancer in my father’s family important?

Yes, absolutely. Half of all women with hereditary risk for breast and ovarian cancer inherited it from their father. It is important to take into account any family history of cancer from both your mother and father’s side when considering genetic testing.

Is ovarian cancer a factor in breast cancer risk?

Yes, ovarian cancer is an important indicator of hereditary risk, although it is not always present in families. 

Is the most important factor the number of women with breast cancer in the family?

No, usually the age of onset of breast cancer is more important than the number of women with the disease. 

What happens at a genetic counseling appointment?

At the initial appointment, which generally takes an hour, you and the genetic counselor will meet to thoroughly review your personal and family medical histories. After identifying your primary concerns, the following information will be discussed:

  • a complete analysis of your family tree
  • an estimation of your risks for specific cancers based upon your age, family history and other risk factors
  • the possible role of genetics in your/your family’s cancer
  • genetic testing for certain cancers and the risks, benefits, and limitations of genetic testing
  • cancer screening tests and recommendations for how often you should be screened

How do I make an appointment for genetic counseling?

To schedule an appointment, please call our genetic counselor, Cheryl Cina, at 858.613.6121. If you reach a voicemail message, please leave your name and phone number, and your call will be returned as soon as possible.

 

 

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