Genetic Counseling

As we learn more about cancer, we learn more about how the genes we inherit from our parents can place us at increased risk for various types of cancer. When cancer is diagnosed, it is important to consider whether family members are at risk, too. Genetic counselors at the Hollings Cancer Center are masters-level trained and certified through the American Board of Genetic Counseling, ensuring qualified, professional care.

Genetic counselor, Karen Baker

The genetic counselors at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center offer consultations to individuals who have cancer, individuals who had cancer but are in remission, and individuals with a family member previously diagnosed with cancer.

What is Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing generally involves drawing a blood sample to look for changes in a person’s genes that may indicate an increased risk for cancer. For those with a cancer diagnosis, genetic testing may also be helpful in personalizing cancer screening recommendations.

Who Can Benefit From Genetic Consultation?

  • Individuals with cancer who were diagnosed at a younger than average age, usually before age 50.
  • Patients who develop more than one cancer. For example, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Individuals with cancer in multiple relatives. For example, when cancer is found on the same side of the family.
  • Patients with rare cancers or tumors (such as male breast cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, pheochromocytoma) or individuals with multiple colon polyps.
  • Individuals with a known pathogenic variant or mutation (positive genetic test result) for a cancer susceptibility gene.

Preparing for your Visit

Please complete the online family history questionnaire before scheduling your appointment.

To best assess your risks, we need accurate family history information. It may be helpful to contact extended relatives to verify any details that you may not know about. It is important to list all relatives, those with and without cancer. The more detailed the family history, the more accurate the risk assessment and screening recommendations.

Our goal is to empower you to make the best informed decision regarding screening and preventative care. If you or anyone in your family has already completed genetic testing, it is helpful to forward a copy of those results before your scheduled appointment. If available, any relevant medical records (pathology reports, oncology reports and/or colonoscopy reports) would be helpful to bring.

What to Expect

The first visit usually takes one to two hours. A second visit may be indicated to discuss results of genetic tests or review additional personal and family history information.

Your genetic counselor will review the following:

  • Cost
  • Benefits and risks of genetic testing
  • Confidentiality
  • Insurability
  • Discrimination
  • Family and patient impact

Genetic testing is not required for a cancer risk assessment. Genetic testing is a personal choice, and it may not necessarily be useful for everyone who receives genetic counseling. We can refer you to appropriate medical specialties and community resources. We are here to support your decisions in the context of your personal values, beliefs and goals.

Scheduling an Appointment

For all patients wishing to meet with a genetic counselor, we require a physician or primary care provider (PCP) referral. Once you have completed the questionnaire, please call 843-792-9300 to schedule your appointment.

Patient Referrals: Please have the patient complete the online family history questionnaire or provide the patient’s email so that we can send them the questionnaire. Referrals and pertinent medical records can be faxed to 843-792-1190. Physician referrals for cancer genetic consultation can be made online or by calling MEDULINE at 843-792-2200.

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