Genetic Counseling FAQ
Northern Westchester Hospital Cancer Genetic Counseling
Should you consider having cancer genetic counseling?
- If you have a personal and/or family history that is suggestive of a hereditary cancer syndrome (see below “How do I know if my personal and/or family history is suggestive of a hereditary cancer syndrome?”)
- If you are especially concerned about your risk to develop cancer even if you don’t seem to fit any of the categories suggesting increased risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome
- If you have already had genetic testing and would like more information regarding your results
- If you have had genetic testing in the past and want an update on what other testing options may now be available
What are the possible benefits of genetic counseling and testing?
- If you have not developed cancer, understanding if you are at increased risk for cancer because of a hereditary syndrome may help determine appropriate surveillance measures and identify possible risk reducing medications in order to detect cancer early and/or decrease the chance to develop cancer
- If you have a cancer diagnosis, genetic counseling can help you understand the chance your cancer is due to a hereditary cancer syndrome which may be a consideration in the treatment for your cancer
- Genetic counseling can help you determine if genetic testing is right for you and/or your family member(s)
- Genetic counseling provides emotional support
How do I know if my personal and/or family history is suggestive of a hereditary cancer syndrome?
About 5-10% of all cancers are hereditary. If you or your family have any of the following features you may benefit from genetic counseling:
- Cancer diagnosed before age 50
- Multiple close family members on the same side of the family with the same or related cancers (ex. Breast and ovarian; colon and uterine)
- Two or more primary cancer diagnoses in the same individual.
- Rare cancers or tumors (ex. Male breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, adrenocortical carcinoma, pheochromocytoma, sarcoma)
- Ovarian Cancer
- Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with breast or ovarian cancer
- A known mutation in a hereditary cancer syndrome gene
- Other features associated with a hereditary cancer syndrome such as multiple colon polyps
- Testing of a cancerous tumor that suggests risk for a hereditary cancer syndrome
If you answered yes to any one of these criteria or you are concerned your family may have a hereditary cancer syndrome you may benefit from cancer genetic counseling.
What happens during the genetic counseling session?
The genetic counseling session last approximately one to one and a half hours and includes the following:
- Detailed education about hereditary cancer as compared with sporadic cancer
- Comprehensive evaluation of personal and family medical history
- Hereditary cancer risk assessment and risk to other family members
- Review of genetic testing options and facilitation of testing (samples can be obtained at the end of the appointment right at the NWH CTWC)
- Cancer screening and risk reduction recommendations
- Psychological support and referrals
- Referrals to clinical research trials and research registries
While genetic testing is often discussed, there is no requirement to have genetic testing when having a genetic counseling consultation. You and your referring physician will receive a letter summarizing the consultation including the meaning of any genetic testing result for you and your family.
What type of training does a genetic counselor have?
Genetic counselors are Master’s level (or higher) healthcare professionals specially trained in medical genetics and counseling. NWH’s cancer genetic counselor, Nancy Cohen, received her Master of Science degree in Human Genetics from the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College and is certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She has a special interest in the management of women at high risk for breast cancer, about which she wrote her master’s thesis, Breast Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction Measures in High-Risk Women.
Why choose NWH’s cancer genetic counseling service?
- Comfortable, quiet and aesthetically pleasing consultation room
- Referrals to local support organizations when appropriate
- Written summary of information reviewed during the session
- Results disclosure by telephone with follow up in person appointment if results are positive or require additional review
- Results letter reviewing the meaning of genetic testing results
- Referrals to other NWH cancer specialists when appropriate
What do I need to do to prepare for my appointment?
- After calling to make an appointment an email, (or regular mail if you don’t have email) will be sent to you with two forms for you to complete and bring to your appointment.
- If your referring doctor does not have your prior genetic testing results or tumor pathology reports for yourself and/or affected relative(s) please bring copies of those reports. We will request records from your referring physician.
- While you are welcome to contact your insurer to check your coverage for genetic counseling/testing, NWH will check your insurance coverage for genetic counseling and testing and will let you know if there is any anticipated large out of pocket expense (please note this does not guarantee coverage or such services)
- Inform us if you may need an interpreter. We may be able to provide an in person interpreter and always have the option of an interpreter provided by phone.
- Arrange for a relative or friend to attend the session with you if you think it would be helpful to you.
Contact the NWH Cancer Genetic Counseling Program directly to schedule an appointment at 914.242.7649
Office hours: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday