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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 are supposed to protect our bodies from cancer. Hereditary cancer, or cancer that is passed down through the family, is caused by a genetic mutation that stops one of these cancer protection genes from working properly. A person with a mutation in one of these genes has lost some of their natural cancer protection and has a higher chance to develop cancer over their lifetime.

You should consider genetic testing if a relative reaches out to let you know that they have tested positive for a hereditary cancer gene.  In addition, individuals who have a personal or family history of the following are likely to benefit from genetic counseling and testing:

  • Diagnosed 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
  • Diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • Diagnosed with male breast cancer
  • Diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer
  • Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
  • Diagnosed with cancer and are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry


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 their doctors make the best treatment plan or take proactive steps against a second cancer developing. 

For those who have not had cancer, our main goal with genetic testing is to help you and your family members to be proactive against cancer.  Genetic test results can help us to better understand your cancer risk and give you proactive cancer screening options to catch abnormalities as soon as possible.  Sometimes preventive steps can be taken to reduce a person's chance of developing cancer.  These proactive and preventive steps can be beneficial for both you and your family members. Most insurance companies will cover all or a portion of the cost of testing, though individual plans vary.

Genetic testing is usually done on a small blood sample, but 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.

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)

We offer cancer genetic counseling at:

Hematology Oncology
A Service of Saint Joseph East
3470 Blazer Parkway, Suite 230
Lexington, KY 40509

We also offer consultations by phone and telemedicine consultations.

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