Genetic counselling

If you’re eligible for genetic testing, you’ll be offered genetic counselling.

What’s discussed?

In the genetic consultation, information about your family history will be discussed and a personalised risk assessment provided. The counsellor will explain the implications of genetic testing as well as the possible options if you are shown to have a BRCA mutation. In addition, you’ll have a chance to talk through what having a genetic test means for you and how you may cope. It’s important to discuss any concerns or questions with your genetic counsellor and to explore the possible impact of a test result on you and your family.

Normally, your consultation will last around 45 minutes and will help make sure that you understand:
  • what the procedure and the genetic test involve
  • which gene faults are tested for
  • how the faulty genes are inherited
  • what the results might be
  • what the results might mean for you and your family (including any children)
  • the possible options to help you manage your risk
  • the confidentiality of results and insurance implications

The aim of genetic counselling is to help you make informed decisions on managing your risk based on your personal and family situation.

Genetic counselling for familial breast cancer is different from traditional or psychological counselling.

You will also be able to discuss changes to family relationships, coping with the news, anxiety and grief and sources of support.

Getting the results

When you receive your genetic test results, this will usually be with a genetic counsellor or geneticist and you will be able to ask questions. In some instances you might receive your results over the phone or by letter. Some people find it difficult to cope with receiving a genetic test result. For example, some people can experience guilty feelings associated with passing a faulty gene to their children. Everybody reacts differently to news like this and it is important to remember that your feelings are completely normal.

You may have lots of questions straight away or you may need some time to process the news before looking at options for the future. Your genetic counsellor is there to help and support you in a way that suits you.

Some people also find it useful to join a support group for people with a family history of breast cancer to hear others’ experiences as well as to discuss their own.

Hear Genetic Counsellor, Andrew Cuthbert explain what happens when you go to a Genetic Counsellor and his tips for talking to your family about your increased risk.

Care you can expect
  • You should be offered genetic counselling before you decide to have any genetic testing so you can discuss:
    • The possible risks and benefits of having testing
    • How likely it is that the tests will find that you have a faulty gene
    • What it could mean for you and your family if a gene fault is found
    • What it could mean if no faulty gene is found, or a fault is found that experts are uncertain about
  • You should be given information on genetic counselling that includes:
    • A description of the process
    • Information you should find out before your session
    • The topics you will discuss
    • Familial breast cancer and genetic testing
Related information
What do you need to consider when choosing whether or not to have genetic testing?

Read more

Get personalised information about the likely steps of genetic testing for you and your family

Read more

Get advice on talking to relatives.

Read more

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