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Genetic Counseling: Learning About Your Risks

Lindsay Langford, MS, Genetic Counselor

If someone in your family has had cancer, talking with a genetic counselor may help you learn more about your risks for the disease. One of the ways genetic counselors gauge a person’s risk for cancer is through his or her family history.

Before meeting with a genetic counselor, patients are asked to talk to family members about their health history, including cancer. The following questions are helpful in figuring out a person’s risk for cancer:

  • Who in my family has had cancer?
  • What type(s) of cancer did they have?
  • How old were they when they had cancer?
  • If they are deceased, how old were they when they passed away?
  • Has anyone in my family had genetic testing related to cancer?

Based on your family history, a genetic counselor may be able to tell you more about your risk for getting cancer. If the genetic counselor sees a pattern of cancer in your family, you may be offered testing to help you and your doctor make choices about your care. Genetic test results may also help you know if other family members are at risk.

Talk with your doctor to see if genetic counseling is right for you.

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