Frequently Asked Questions
What is genetic counseling?
Genetic counseling is a process that includes collecting a detailed personal and family history, a risk assessment, and a discussion of the genetic testing options. The risks, benefits and limitations of the available testing options and personalized cancer screening and risk reduction recommendations are also discussed during the counseling sessions. For more information about these sessions please see Steps of our Program.
Who is a candidate for genetic counseling?
Please see Who can benefit from our program?.
Can I just have genetic testing without counseling?
No. Counseling is an integral part of the testing process and is essential to ensure that the correct test is ordered and for accurate result interpretation and medical management.
Why do I need to see a cancer genetics specialist?
The cancer genetic counseling and testing process (including which test to order and interpreting the results correctly) can be quite complex. Studies have shown a high rate of genetic test result misinterpretation among providers who do not specialize in this area. Due to the complexities of this process and the risk of result misinterpretation, it is recommended that individuals interested in pursuing cancer genetic counseling and testing see a cancer genetics specialist. To find a cancer genetics specialist near you, please see
How would I use the results of genetic counseling and testing?
This information will help to estimate a person's true risks of developing cancer, and to develop a personalized plan for surveillance and management based on those risks. It can also be very useful to the entire family. We discuss these issues, in depth, in the counseling sessions.
Will my insurance pay for genetic counseling?
Most insurance companies cover part, if not all, of the counseling charges (range $500-$800) associated with our program. Check your insurance policy to see if you generally require a referral from your primary care physician.
Will my insurance pay for genetic testing?
After your first session we will determine which genetic test, if any, would be most appropriate and whom in the family (ideally) should be tested first. We will discuss the cost of that testing (range ~$200-$4000) and, at your request, will navigate the insurance authorization process for you. Letters of medical necessity are sometimes required and we will write such a letter for you after your first session, if needed.
Are there risks of billing these costs to my insurance company?
It does not appear that billing health insurance companies for cancer genetic counseling or testing represents a major risk. However, future coverage for life and disability insurance may be affected by such services, particularly if you are not a cancer survivor. For more information, please see Insurance issues.
Is this a research study or a clinical service?
Cancer genetic counseling and testing are now offered as a clinical service. However, if you are seen by our program, we will invite you to participate in our data repository which allows us to share anonymized data with current and future studies to further research in this area. In addition, depending upon your personal and/or family history, you may be invited to participate in other research studies that are available through our program.
What information should I bring to my first counseling session?
The more information you give us, the more accurate your counseling will be. We can collect some of the following information after your first session; however, it would be ideal for you to collect it before your first appointment. If you have had cancer, please bring us a copy of your pathology reports or have them faxed to our program at (203) 764-8401 before your first appointment. We will be asking you questions about your family members, particularly your brothers, sisters, parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. If any of them have had cancer, please find out the primary site of the cancer and their age at diagnosis. Pathology reports are very helpful. If any of your family members have had genetic testing, please bring us a copy of the actual test results. Please also see Researching your family history.
Do I need a referral from my physician for genetic counseling?
Our program does not require a referral, but your insurance may. Please check with your particular carrier and policy on this issue.
How long will it take me to schedule an appointment?
As with most medical offices, we are currently scheduling patients ~1-2 months ahead of time at our New Haven office. The wait for appointments at our outreach sites (Greenwich, Griffin Hospital, Trumbull) is often longer. Exceptions are made for medical emergencies.
How do I schedule an appointment?
Please contact us directly to schedule your appointment. We see patients in our New Haven office ~2 days per week and we see patients once a month at Greenwich, Trumbull, and Derby. Please see Contact us to schedule an appointment.
For information about BRCA testing issues specific to young men and women, click here