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Genetic counseling

Identifying cancer risk
A genetic counselor specializes in interpreting complex family histories, and helping people understand complex genetic tests and how their genes affect their health.

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If you or a close relative has had cancer, you may be concerned about your risk for a future cancer and what you can do to reduce that risk. A close relative is a parent, brother, sister, child, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or grandparent.

You may wonder if your children or other relatives are at risk. You may also wonder if genetic testing is right for you.

Genetic counseling can help answer your questions.

A genetic counselor is a nationally certified health care provider. He or she can:

  • interpret complex family histories
  • educate about cancers that run in families (known as inherited or genetic cancer)
  • talk about cancer risks, screening and prevention for you and your family
  • help patients and families make informed decisions about genetic testing and help interpret test results

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Cancer Genetic Counseling: How It Can Help You and Your Family, can-ahc-14960
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including Shari Baldinger, MS, certified genetic counselor, Abbott Northwestern Hospital

First published: 9/26/2013
Last reviewed: 8/17/2009