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Cancer Genetic Testing: Frequently Asked Questions

What will happen during my cancer genetics appointment?

You will meet with a certified genetic counselor, and you may also meet with a physician on the same day. Your genetic counselor will take a personal and family history from you, mainly focusing on cancer. Based on your history, the genetic counselor will determine if your personal and/or family history of cancer is suggestive of a hereditary predisposition to cancer. If appropriate, your genetic counselor will review specific genes or hereditary cancer syndromes based on your history and will discuss your options for pursuing genetic testing.

What information do I need to have ready for my cancer genetics appointment?

We will ask you about your personal history of cancer, a current diagnosis, information about the type of cancer, your age at diagnosis and treatments. We will also collect information regarding your cancer screening history (e.g., mammograms, colonoscopies) and we will also collect information about gynecologic history for women.

For your family history, the genetic counselor will ask questions about your blood relatives, focusing on whether they have had cancer. If they have had cancer, we will ask what type of cancer it was and approximately how old they were when they were diagnosed.

How is genetic testing performed?

Genetic testing is typically done through a blood or saliva sample that can be collected the same day as your genetic counseling appointment.

Does insurance cover genetic testing?

Most commercial health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid cover the cost of cancer genetic testing when a person is an appropriate test candidate. Part of the genetic counseling consultation is to help determine if you are appropriate for testing.

Even though many insurance plans will cover genetic testing, you may still have an out-of-pocket cost due to deductibles and co-insurance.

Many of the genetic testing laboratories will hold your testing until the exact cost is determined.

Will my genetic test result be used against me as a pre-existing condition?

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was passed in 2008. GINA states that health insurers and employers are not allowed to use genetic information against a person.

I don’t have any children, why would I need genetic testing?

Cancer genetic testing can provide information for yourself, as well as your blood relatives. A cancer genetic test result may impact what is recommended for your future management or cancer screenings. It also provides information for all of your blood relatives, not just children.