The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center

Spotlight on Genetic Counseling

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Genetic counseling provides valuable insight into family cancer risks. It’s a fact: Ten percent of all cancers are hereditary.

 The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center’s Genetic Counseling Program – a process that takes the guesswork out of determining an individual’s risk of hereditary cancer. There are two steps in this process – genetic counseling and genetic testing. Genetic counseling is the step where an individual’s personal and family history is investigated to determine if genetic testing is necessary and, if so, what set of genes is appropriate to test. Genetic testing involves a blood test so that genes can be carefully analyzed to determine if the genetic code is correct and that the genes are working properly.

How does genetic counseling work?

When a patient is referred for genetic counseling, his/her physician sends all of the patient’s paperwork to the Leever Cancer Center, and a phone appointment is scheduled with our genetic counseling partner, InformedDNA. During the call, a board-certified genetic counselor reviews the patient’s family health history in detail and discusses whether gene testing is merited.

What happens next?

A certain percentage of patients who go through the genetic counseling process will be deemed at low lifetime cancer risk and therefore will not require further testing. Also, because of the high cost of genetic testing, insurers are increasingly demanding that patients be screened by a board-certified genetic counselor first. Patients should always check with their insurance provider before any procedure to learn what is and is not covered.

What if I need genetic testing?

If the patient is deemed an appropriate candidate for genetic testing, he/she will continue on the initial phone call and learn about the benefits and limitations that are involved. All of the results from the call are shared with the Leever team, as well as the patient’s physician, so an informed decision can be made about the next steps. If both parties decide to go ahead with the testing, the patient will return to HLRCC for a blood draw, after which, the sample is sent directly to the appropriate testing facility.

Which hereditary cancers can genetic counseling address?

Most often, patients are referred to our counseling program to assess their risk for breast cancer. Genetic counseling can also assess the risk for other cancers such as ovarian cancer and gastrointestinal cancer. With the tools available to us, we’re able to give patients a more comprehensive view of their inheritable cancer risks than ever before.

I’ve been diagnosed with cancer… could I still benefit from genetic counseling?

Yes, this is something that you should discuss with your oncologist. If you have already been diagnosed with cancer, genetic counseling and genetic testing could help customize your treatment and follow-up options.

To learn more about the HLRCC genetic counseling program, contact Joanne Giedra, Cancer Program Navigator, at 203-575-5503 or