Genetic counseling guides and supports patients seeking information about how inherited diseases and conditions might affect them or their families. Our Genetic Counselor Laura Fisher, MS, CGC, is a Certified Genetic Counselor at Windsong Medical Alliance, PLLC. Laura received a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling from Boston University. As a genetic counselor, Laura educates individuals, assesses risk and helps patients to interpret the results. Laura’s expertise helps patients determine if they should pursue testing at all. As Laura stated, “With genetic testing for inherited cancer predisposition becoming more widely available and increasingly complex, it is my goal to provide patients with the counseling and education needed to help them make informed decisions.”
Genetic Counseling and Testing
The genes we are born with may contribute to our risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate cancer. In some genes, a change in DNA structure has been linked to cancer. These mutations can be identified by genetic testing. Although some people are genetically predisposed to developing certain types of cancer, many cases of cancers develop by chance.
The Windsong Breast Care Hereditary Cancer Risk Program is a new program which concentrates on hereditary risk assessment, genetic testing, and screening plans based on individualized risk assessment. Our specially trained genetic counselor can discuss ways to minimize cancer risk or ensure early detection of cancer, when there is the greatest chance of a cure.
How do my genes impact my cancer risk?
Cancer is usually caused by gene mutations. Changes in genes or somatic mutations may arise as a natural consequence of aging. They may also arise when a cell’s DNA has been damaged. These acquired mutations are not passed on from parents to their children.
A different type of mutation called a hereditary mutation, or germline mutation is usually inherited from one or both of the person’s parents. These mutations are present in nearly every cell of the body and can be passed down in families. Although carrying these hereditary mutations does not necessarily mean a person will get cancer, it does increase their risk of developing the disease at some point during their lifetime.
If you have a family history of cancer, or if you would like to find out whether you or a family member has an increased likelihood of developing cancer, the genetic counseling and testing frequently asked questions may help you to better understand how the information can help you and your doctor in making important treatment decisions.
Do you have a personal or family history of cancer?
Genetic counseling and testing can help individuals better understand their risks for certain types of cancer. An appointment with a genetic counselor includes analysis of a person’s medical and family histories. Genetic counselors are also trained to educate patients about testing options, management and prevention. They also discuss the impact results may have on family members.
It is crucial to have this complex information explained by a specialized provider. The cancer genetic counseling program at Windsong, an affiliate of Windsong, is committed to providing patients with the information they need to make an informed decision.
Genetic counseling and testing may be considered for individuals with a personal or strong family history of cancer. Patients that have a personal or family history of one or more of the following may be appropriate for genetic counseling:
Breast and Ovarian Cancer
- Breast cancer diagnosed at age 50 or younger
- Ovarian cancer at any age
- Three or more relatives with breast or ovarian cancer at any age
- Triple-negative breast cancer at age 60 or younger
- Bilateral breast cancer or multiple primary breast cancers
- Breast and ovarian cancer in the same individual
- Male breast cancer
- Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
- Known genetic mutation in a family member
Colorectal and Endometrial Cancer
- Colorectal cancer diagnosed at age 50 or younger
- Endometrial cancer diagnosed at age 50 or younger
- Three or more relatives with colorectal cancer and/or endometrial cancer
- Known genetic mutation in a family member
Our genetic counselor works closely with the laboratory and a patient’s insurance company to obtain authorization for genetic testing. For more information please call (716) 626-6300.
(Many patients tested at Windsong pay $100 or less for genetic testing.)
Genetic Counseling and Testing FAQs
Q. What happens at a genetic counseling appointment?
A. A genetic counselor will ask you questions about your medical history and family history. Then, you will learn about genetic testing, and the benefits and limitations. If you are interested in pursuing genetic testing, a sample can be collected at that time. The visit takes approximately 45-60 minutes.
Q. How much does genetic counseling and genetic testing cost, and will insurance cover it?
A. Health insurance will often cover genetic counseling similar to how a visit to any specialist is covered. In many cases, health insurance covers genetic testing when a patient meets criteria and it is recommended by a genetic counselor. For many patients, this is considered a preventative service and there is no cost. Nearly all patients pay $100 or less.
Q. What does the genetic testing involve?
A. Genetic testing can be done by collecting a small tube of blood or saliva. The sample is sent to a specialized laboratory to be processed.
Q. I only have cancer on my dad’s side of the family. Can I still be at an increased risk?
A. Yes. No matter which side of your family has cancer, it still may put you at an increased risk.
Q. How will genetic testing help me if I already have/had cancer?
A. Genetic testing can help identify whether you inherited a gene mutation that caused your cancer and if so, this information could help doctors treat you more effectively. Also, some people develop more than one cancer in their lifetime, so knowing your future risks may allow you to take preventative measures.
Q. Can my genetic test results impact my family?
A. Knowing if a cancer gene mutation is running through your family may help determine who else in your family is at risk and steps they can take to avoid getting cancer or ensure early detection.
Q. Can genetic counseling help me if I don’t know anything about my family history?
A. While family history is helpful, there are a number of ways genetic counseling can help you even if you don’t have much information on your family history. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer under the age of 50, or if it is a rare type of cancer, genetic counseling can help you decide whether genetic testing might be beneficial.
Q. Am I a good candidate for genetic counseling?
A. You may be if you meet any of the following criteria:
Personal or family history of:
- Cancer diagnosed at age 50 or younger
- Triple negative breast cancer diagnosed at age 60 years or younger
- More than one cancer in the same person
- Ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer at any age
- Male breast cancer at any age
- Three or more family members* with breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and/or prostate cancer on same side of family
- Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and/or prostate cancer
- Three or more family members* with colon, uterine, stomach, and/or uterine cancer on the same side of the family
- A previously identified cancer gene mutation in the family*
*Family member defined as a first, second, or third degree relative (parents, siblings, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, half-siblings, great-grandparents, cousins, great-aunts, great-uncles, or great-grandchildren)
Q. What can I do to prepare for my upcoming genetic counseling appointment?
A. Talk to your relatives about any family history of cancer. Important details include age at which family members were diagnosed, type of cancer, and if relatives have had genetic testing. If a relative had positive genetic test results that disclosed a mutation, a copy of these results is necessary to ensure the most appropriate genetic test is ordered for you. Also, if you previously had cancer genetic testing yourself, a copy of these results is also helpful.
Q. How can I schedule an appointment?
A. Please call Windsong at (716) 626-6300 to schedule an appointment with a certified genetic counselor.
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