The Role of a Genetic Counselor in Your Healthcare

Genetic counselors play a crucial role in people’s healthcare – from helping them navigate the genetic testing process, to identifying key information in their family health history, to supporting them through an important medical decision.

Genetic counseling and cancer risk assessment can help people better understand their health, make informed healthcare decisions, and shape the future of personalized medicine.

EWBC Genetic Counseling

With genetic counseling, individuals and families can become aware of how their genetics can affect their health.

Genetic counselors, trained not only in medical genetics but also counseling, are the experts in helping people interpret these test results and guiding patients in their next steps.

Specifically, at a genetic counseling appointment, a genetic counselor would help:

  • Explore personal and family health history to become aware of genetic risks
  • Decide what, if any, genetic testing is best for patients and families
  • How a test result might not give you all the information you need
  • Discuss the medical and emotional implications of genetic information
  • Discuss genetic test results and next steps
  • How genetic test results may affect other family members

Genetic testing helps you learn if your family history of breast cancer is due to a specific inherited gene mutation. The test itself is simple – it’s done with a blood or saliva sample. Results come back in about a week. Genetic test results are a factor in determining the overall risk. Results can help you understand your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancers and steps you can take to reduce your risk. A positive test result does not mean you will get breast or ovarian cancer. If you test negative for a specific gene mutation, you still may be at an increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer.

You may wonder about purchasing an at-home DNA testing kit. While at-home DNA test kits can help with understanding genealogy, they can also unearth your potential risk of developing some significant health conditions in the future. That’s why a certified genetic counselor is recommended to discuss their potential risk based on family history and whether testing makes sense. Genetic counselors can also help people understand their results and ensure informed health decisions are being made after testing.

Each year, millions of people are undergoing genetic testing to learn more about their risks for certain inherited diseases, whether they’re a carrier for certain conditions or if they have a genetic mutation, like BRCA, which could lead to cancer. These tests aren’t meant to scare you, rather provide you with the tools you need to make informed health decisions.

Knowing your cancer risk and being proactive about your health may help you take steps to lower your risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer or find it at an early stage.  As always, genetic counseling can help you determine the best personal course of action. Questions you may have for a genetic counselor: Am I a candidate for genetic testing? Am I a candidate for an MRI? I was previously tested, do I need a larger panel? Will my insurance cover genetic testing?

Genetic counseling and testing are recommended for men or women whose family medical history has certain patterns of cancer. If you have questions, please reach out to our Cancer Risk Assessment and Genetic Counseling office at Elizabeth Wende Breast Care. Our certified genetic counselor, Jessica Salamone, and her staff would be happy to assist you. (585) 758-7050.

Meet our Genetic Counselor, Jessica Salamone, CGC