Genetic Testing and Counseling

Genetic Testing and Counseling

At Virginia Cancer Specialists, we provide comprehensive medical care and support services for people diagnosed with cancer or those at a higher risk of developing cancer. Our integrated team comprised of oncologists, genetic counselors, nurse practitioners and nurse specialists have received special training related to inherited cancers and are available to help you understand your level of risk and provide personalized medical recommendations based on personal and/or family history of cancer.

Approximately 5-10% of cancers are inherited. Changes in a particular gene can be passed down from a parent and are associated with a higher lifetime risk of cancer. Features suggestive of hereditary cancer include:

  • Any individual diagnosed with cancer prior to age 50
  • Any individual who has developed more than one cancer
  • Any individual with a rare type of cancer (ovarian, male breast cancer, pancreatic)
  • An individual with two or more family members diagnosed with the same cancer
  • A family member with an identifiable gene mutation known to increase the risk of cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry with a personal or family history of cancer

If you or your family has these features, it is important to review this information with your doctor and to schedule an appointment with our team for a more in depth discussion.

If you are a patient with a Hereditary Risk Assessment scheduled, please fill out these forms prior to your visit.

The Genetics Team

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Cancer Risk Assessment or Evaluation involve?

Prior to your appointment, you will receive paperwork to complete regarding your health and family history.  It is important to provide us with any medical records including pathology or copies of genetic test results for you and/or other family members.

At the appointment, you will learn about how genetics play a role in cancer risk and how likely your family is to have an inherited predisposition to certain cancers.  You will also learn what type of testing (if any) is recommended for you as well as the risks, benefits and limitations of this testing . We will discuss the medical, social, emotional and ethical impact of genetic testing on you and your family.

Once testing is complete, we review results with you in person and can personalize your screening/treatment plan. We also discuss the impact on family members and identify appropriate resources.

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing is the process of using medical tests to look for specific changes (mutations) in a person’s genes when they have features of a hereditary condition.  This is usually done by a blood or saliva sample. Most genetic testing is ordered through special health care providers and sent to specific genetic labs.

Why are Hereditary Risk Assessment and genetic testing important?

By determining whether an individual is at an elevated risk for cancer based on a gene mutation or strong family history, we can offer special options for medical management, lifestyle choices, and family planning. This includes:

  • Screening for cancers (at a younger age, more frequent intervals and/or using different technology)
  • Prevention or risk reduction of cancers (through surgery or medications)
  • Potential specialized cancer treatment
  • Potential modification of cancer risk through diet and exercise
  • Information regarding risks to children and other family members

Does insurance cover the appointment and testing?

An appointment for Cancer Risk Evaluation is billed to insurance the same as any appointment to a specialist.  Coverage for any additional tests varies by insurance company. While there are general guidelines for coverage, several insurance companies do require pre- and post test consultation by a trained genetics professional to ensure that the appropriate test is ordered.  Nearly all genetic tests are pre-authorized by the specific laboratory that we send testing to.

Can my insurance be affected and/or are my results confidential?

There are laws at the state and federal level preventing your health insurer from using genetic results to discriminate against individuals.  This means that a health insurer cannot deny coverage, drop coverage or raise rates based on the results of genetic testing.   In addition to legal protection, we have multiple procedures in place to maintain confidentiality.

Virginia Cancer Specialists Offices that offer Genetic Counseling

Alexandria Office

Arlington Office

Fair Oaks Office

Fairfax Office

Fairfax Office, Breast Surgical Services

Gainesville Office

Loudoun Office

Woodbridge Office

View All Locations


  1. Lynch Syndrome:  Please download a free copy of A Patients Guide to Lynch Syndrome (below) published by the Hereditary Colon Cancer Foundation.