Genetic Counseling for Cancer

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Only 5-10% of cancers are inherited. Most are caused by environmental or unknown factors. However, genes can influence any cancer, even those caused by something external. Often a combination of factors, not one thing alone, results in cancer.

What is Genetic Counseling?

A genetic counselor determines your risk of getting cancer based on:

  • Your personal medical history
  • Your family history
  • Genetic testing

After collecting and interpreting all of your information and test results, a genetic counselor helps you understand what it all means.

Genetic counselors use this risk assessment to help guide you, your family, and your specialists and providers to a plan of care that is right for you.

Understanding Cancer Genetics

There isn’t just one "cancer gene." One gene may be related to several cancers. The BRCA2 gene, for instance, known for its relationship to breast cancer, can also cause ovarian, prostate, pancreas and skin cancers.

Sometimes, if you’ve been treated for breast cancer, you might be worried about it returning. You may want to prevent that with a mastectomy, or breast removal. But what if you’re actually more at risk to get cancer in your colon? A genetic counselor can help you figure that out.

Don’t know your family’s medical history? We can still do genetic testing to gather helpful information.

UVA Cancer Center
Get genetic counseling at the UVA Cancer Center building

When you have your genetic counseling session, you can also visit the Learning Resource Center on the 3rd floor. We'll help you research and answer questions about your cancer concerns.

Visit the Cancer Center
Should You Get Tested?
A patient discusses her family medical history with a cancer geneticist.

You're worried about getting cancer or passing it onto your children. Should you see a genetic counselor? We can help you learn about your risks and figure out next steps. 

Find out if you should get tested
Genetic Discoveries
A test slide that genetic counselors use to map out your cancer risk.

As an academic medical center, we do research to improve cancer treatment and screening. Genetics plays a role in medical research more and more. Our genetic counselors stay current with these new developments.

Browse cancer clinical trials