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Genetic Counseling & Testing

The majority of cancers happen by chance: only 5 percent to 10 percent are hereditary. But, if you have one or more family members affected by cancer, you may wonder if your genetic makeup has increased your risk for the disease.

CHI Saint Joseph Health provides genetic counseling to individuals or families with hereditary concerns. When appropriate, we also coordinate cancer genetic testing, help interpret the results and discuss ways to help prevent cancer or detect it early, when it’s most treatable.

Genetic Counseling and Testing for Breast Cancer Risk

Understanding Your Risk for Hereditary Cancer

We all have many genes that wrok to protect our bodies from cancer. Hereditary cancer, or cancer that is passed down through a family, is caused by a mutation in one of these genes that stops it from working properly. A person with a hereditary cancer mutation has lost some of their natural cancer protection and has a higher chance to develop cancer over their lifetime.

You may benefit from genetic testing if you have a personal or family history of:

  • Multiple family members with the same or related types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian cancer, or colon and uterine/endometrial cancer
  • Cancer diagnosed under the age of 50
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Aggresive or metastatic prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Rare cancers
  • Cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • A known hereditary cancer mutation


A licensed CHI Saint Joseph Health genetic counselor can help you understand your risk for hereditary cancer syndromes by:

  • Reviewing your family history of cancer in detail (types of cancer, age of diagnosis, etc.)
  • Assessing and explaining your risk for hereditary cancer
  • Describing the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing and helping determine if you’re a candidate
  • Arranging genetic testing, if appropriate and you decide to proceed
  • Walking through genetic test results and explaining what they mean for you and your family

About Genetic Testing

After a thorough discussion with your genetic counselor, you can decide if genetic testing is right for you. For an individual who has already been diagnosed with cancer, genetic testing may help doctors make the best treatment plan or take proactive steps against developing a second cancer. 

For those who have not had cancer, the main goal of genetic testing is to help you and your family members be proactive against cancer.  This is done through early or more frequent cancer screenings to detect any abnormalities as soon as possible, or through taking steps to prevent cancer altogether.  If a hereditary cancer mutation is identified, genetic testing is offered to family members to determine if others are at increased risk and allow them to be proactive as well.  

Genetic testing is usually done on a small blood sample. Sometimes saliva, cells from inside the cheek, or skin cells are used instead. The sample is then sent to a specialized laboratory, which looks for specific inherited changes (mutations) in your genes. Most insurance companies will cover all or a portion of the cost of testing, though individual plans vary.

Not all genetic changes are harmful and no genetic test can say whether you will develop cancer for sure. Your genetic counselor will review your results with you in detail so that you understand your cancer risk and the steps you can take to prevent or catch cancer early.

Bethany Kelly, licensed genetic counselor with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care, discusses genetic counseling, testing for hereditary cancer risk and who should consider genetic counseling.

Is A Cancer Genetic Risk Assessment Right for You?

The decision to have genetic counseling and/or testing is an individual one. If you feel you may be at risk for hereditary cancer, contact us at 844-835-GENE (4363) or email our genetic counselors. 

We offer in-person cancer genetic counseling in our Resource Center suite in Lexington and also offer telephone and telemedicine consultations throughout Central Kentucky.

CHI Saint Joseph Health Resource Center
A Service of Saint Joseph East
3470 Blazer Parkway, Suite 230
Lexington, KY 40509

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