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Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What does a genetic counselor do?

  • Provides cancer risk and assessment based on personal and family history
  • Educates patients about inheritance patterns, genetic testing, and research opportunities
  • Coordinates genetic testing, when appropriate, to detect genetic mutations that elevate one’s cancer risk and promote informed decisions about genetic testing
    • There are several testing options available. Patients work together with the genetics specialist to determine the most appropriate test for them.
  • Provides support and resources for families with a hereditary cancer syndrome or a strong personal and/or family history of cancer
  • Makes recommendations for cancer screening/prevention and management based on a genetic mutation and/or family history

Q: Does my insurance cover genetic counseling and testing?

There is no cost for this genetic counseling consult, it is paid for by the Dignity Health Cancer Institute.

Our genetic counseling team will review your family and personal history risk factors to determine your eligibility for genetic testing. Genetic testing is generally covered by most insurances in full or at a low out-of-pocket cost. The laboratory that preforms the testing will bill your insurance and help determine any costs you may incur. Genetic testing is completely optional and you can decline at any time.

Q: Do I need genetic counseling or testing if I already have cancer?

Genetic counseling and testing can be performed in any individual including those with a personal and/or family history of cancer. Genetic testing results may impact certain decisions regarding cancer screening, management, and treatment. In many cases an individual affected with cancer is the best person to test in the family in order to provide informative results for unaffected relatives.

Q: What is the difference between your genetic testing and direct-to-consumer genetic testing (example: 23andMe and Ancestry.com)?

There are many forms of genetic testing on the market currently. Genetics is a constantly growing field where new research and information is becoming available rapidly. There are some forms of genetic testing that you can buy without consulting a doctor or genetic counselor, these tests are considered direct-to-consumer or over-the-counter. These products differ from the clinical genetic testing which is offered through our office. Clinical genetic testing is ordered with the guidance of a doctor or genetic counselor and performed though a specialized genetic testing laboratory; it is typically more comprehensive and can be tailored to a specific individual’s needs.

Q: How do I get a referral to the Dignity Health Cancer Genetics Program for genetic counseling?

Talk with your primary care doctor or specialist about a referral to genetic counseling. We accept referrals from all providers and most insurances. Referrals can be sent directly to our office and providers or patients can call us at 916.556.3169.