Q: What is a genetic test and how is it performed?

Genetic testing is simple and done by collecting a small amount of blood or saliva sample, which is then sent to a genetic testing laboratory. Your DNA, the letters making up your genes, is isolated from the cells and analyzed for any 'misspellings'. Some misspellings are benign, while some are harmful. These are called gene mutations. Typically, within three weeks, you will get your test results from your genetic counselor.

Q: How much does genetic testing cost and will my insurance cover it?

Before any medical procedure, consult with your insurance company to confirm coverage. For a majority of plans, genetic counseling is covered, however, each company has different policies. Similar to other healthcare services, you may have have an out-of-pocket fee.

Q: Is my insurance company allowed to discriminate against me based on my genetic tests results?

No. You and your genetic information are protected in The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). This act protects your information from being used to decide both employment and medical insurance decisions. You are protected in the event that you decide to undergo a genetic test, receive medical care, or participate in a clinical trial. GINA does NOT protect against in the discrimination of purchasing life, disability or long-term care insurance.

Q: Is genetic testing required?

Genetic testing is optional. Deciding when and whether to have genetic testing is a personal decision, and our genetic counselor can help you decide whether testing might be helpful to you and your family. Individuals often undergo genetic testing around the age when their medical management would change. This is around age 25 for women and between ages 35-40 for men.

Q: Can I get a genetic test without having to see a genetic counselor?

Typically, a genetic test is ordered by a genetic counselor or a physician. Because the interpretation of the results is complex and not all physicians are trained in genetics, you may be left with additional questions about the implications of your results. Our genetic counselor has advanced training in medical genetics and psychosocial counseling to best prepare you for your results and explain the implications.

Q: Can genetic counseling help me if I do not know my family's history?

Genetic counseling can still be helpful even if you do not have information on your family's history or you are an adopted individual. A genetic counselor can help you decide whether a genetic test would be beneficial.

Q: Can genetic testing help me if I have already been diagnosed with cancer?

Yes. A genetic test will help determine if the cancer was inherited through a gene mutation which can help physicians treat you more efficiently. It has been found that some types of inherited cancer won't respond to certain treatments while some respond very well. A genetic test can also help determine if other family members may be at risk for carrying the same mutation.

Q: Who in my family should get genetic testing?

The best strategy is to start testing someone in the family who has had a cancer diagnosis. This is because that family member is more likely than an unaffected relative to have an inherited gene mutation, if a detectable mutation exists in the family. Testing can still be performed on an individual who has not been affected by cancer. The genetic counselor can help you establish the best testing strategy that will be most informative for you and your family.