Genetic Counseling Program
Genetic counseling is one of the many services provided by the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health.
Genetic counselors are medical professionals who are trained
to help individuals and families understand how genes can affect health.
They explain the effects of genes on health, and
guide individuals and families through the decision-making process of whether to pursue
genetic testing and adapt to the medical, psychological and potential impacts on families of genetic testing results.
Genetic counselors work in many different medical
specialties. Cancer genetic counselors help identify individuals and families
with potential hereditary cancer – to provide cancer-risk assessment and
awareness, early cancer detection and cancer prevention.
Approximately 10% of all cancers are hereditary, meaning
that they are caused by a change in a specific gene which can be passed from
parent to child. People who inherit
these changes (known as “mutations”) have an increased risk of developing
specific types of cancer throughout their lifetime. Genetic testing for these
changes can help clarify cancer risk for individuals and family members. Genetic
testing may also help doctors establish appropriate cancer screening and/or
treatment for their patients.
There are many reasons for people to consider genetic
- A known genetic mutation in the family
- Multiple people on the same side of the family
with related cancers (ex: mother, daughter, and sisters with breast and/or
- Uncommon cancer presentations (ex: male breast
cancer or rare tumor types)
- Early onset of cancer (usually diagnosed at less
than 50 years of age).
If you choose to schedule a genetic counseling appointment, a
genetic counselor will review your family and/or personal history of cancer,
cover basic information about cancer genetics, and discuss the types of
hereditary cancer syndromes and the role certain genes play in the development
If appropriate, the genetic
counselor will also discuss the option of genetic testing and can arrange for you
to have testing performed. Though many people will
only have one in-person meeting with a genetic counselor, they will remain a
resource for individuals and families throughout the entire process of genetic
testing, often communicating by telephone and letter.
If you would like to meet with a genetic counselor or are
unsure if your family could benefit from genetic counseling, you may want to
consult your doctor or call 336-713-6978 for more information.