Genetic Testing & Counseling for Cancer


Genetic Counseling Services

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, you may wonder if it runs in the family. About 5% - 10% of all cancers are hereditary ― caused by a gene mutation passed from parent to child. Your Mercy doctor can evaluate your family history and other factors to determine whether you’re at risk for hereditary cancer. If so, you’ll be referred to a Mercy genetic counselor.

What is Genetic Counseling?

Before any genetic testing is done, a counseling session is held to review your family history and lifestyle risks. Mercy genetic counselors are specially trained to educate you about hereditary cancer risk, perform risk assessments, order genetic tests and interpret test results. Our genetic counselors guide you through every step of the process, helping you understand your results and make informed health decisions.

Some health plans cover cancer genetic counseling and testing costs. Talk with your genetic counselor about costs and coverage.

Who Can Benefit From Genetic Counseling?

Your Mercy doctor may recommend genetic counseling for cancer if one or more of these factors apply to you: 

  • Cancer-free but have a family history of hereditary cancer
  • Have cancer, and knowing if it’s genetic can guide treatment, such as with breast, ovarian or colon cancer
  • Have cancer at a young age
  • Develop several different kinds of cancer
  • Develop cancer in organ pairs, like both kidneys or breasts
  • Belong to a racial or ethnic group with increased cancer risk
  • Have multiple first-degree relatives with same cancer, such as a mother, sister and daughter with breast cancer
  • Develop unusual cancer, like male breast cancer
  • Have a birth defect associated with hereditary cancer, such as certain skin or skeletal abnormalities
  • Develop several different kinds of cancer

What is Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing looks for inherited gene changes (mutations) that can increase cancer risk. Testing is done on a small sample of blood, saliva, skin cells or inner-cheek cells. A laboratory that specializes in genetic testing performs the tests, and results may take several weeks or longer.

Genetic testing for cancer can be even more effective if a relative who had cancer is tested. If there’s an abnormal gene in your family, they may have inherited it. If you don’t have a living relative who had cancer, your Mercy genetic counselor can recommend the next best family member.

Based on your test results, your genetic counselor may discuss cancer screening plans, preventive surgeries or chemoprevention therapy.

What Are the Benefits of Genetic Testing & Counseling?

Whatever the results, genetic testing can provide the knowledge you and your caregivers need to better manage cancer risks or treat if more effectively. Testing advantages include:

  • Brings peace of mind if haven’t inherited gene mutations
  • Motivates you to make healthy choices and lifestyle changes
  • Informs lifesaving decisions about screenings, surgery or other preventive measures
  • Makes treatment of any current cancers more effective
  • Informs family members about hereditary cancer risks

Mercy genetic counselors are ready to empower you with valuable genetic information, so you can live a fuller, healthier life.

At Mercy, you’ll find experienced genetic counselors who can assess individual or family risks for hereditary cancers.

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