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Guest post from Lisa Kessler, DN...

Posted Aug 24 2008 4:55pm

Guest post from Lisa Kessler, DNA Direct’s Senior Genetic Counselor:

A recent article in the New York Times about red flags for hereditary cancer went into detail about specific findings in families. About 5-10% of cancers are thought to be strongly hereditary; for people who worry about their genetic risk, and who have a family history consistent with a hereditary cancer syndrome, genetic counseling and genetic testing can be extremely useful for decisions about personal and family health.

The article emphasizes the need for “intensive professional counseling” for individuals and families concerned about hereditary cancer risk, and I agree completely. I believe that genetic counseling helps people understand whether testing is medically indicated—and why, learn the benefits and limitations of testing, and understand why a certain family member might be the most informative person to test.

At DNA Direct, genetic counseling is required for people considering testing, both before and after hereditary cancer testing. Our counseling model provides people with an opportunity to learn about the testing to determine if it’s right for them — and for their families.

Most people aren’t familiar with the type of information discussed in a genetic counseling session. At DNA Direct, a pre-test genetic counseling session for someone considering BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing (genes for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risk) includes, but is not limited to:

  • discussion of personal medical history related to cancer
  • drawing and interpretation of a 3-generation family health history diagram
  • discussion of who in the family is the most appropriate member to test first
  • background information about genes, chromosomes, and inheritance
  • specific cancer risks associated with having a BRCA1/2 mutation
  • options for cancer screening and prevention for people at high risk
  • discussion of the benefits and limitations of BRCA testing , including psychological impact
  • understanding the possible results of testing

If people proceed with testing through DNA Direct, a board-certified genetic counselor discloses the test results over the telephone. Then, clients can access a detailed, 5-chapter Personalized Report that reviews much of the information discussed during the pre- and post-test consultations. Because people often have questions after receiving their results, our genetic counselors are available to answer questions or simply for support, for all who test with us.

Not all patients can see a genetic counselor in person. Providing counseling by telephone gives us at DNA Direct the chance to increase access to genetic services in a responsible way, with a focus on ensuring reliable, easy-to-understand and informative results.

Lisa Kessler, MS, CGC

Senior Genetic Counselor

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