Family history proves vital.

Position:Genetic Counseling - Disease/Disorder overview - Brief article

People dealing with a diagnosis of cancer or a genetic condition might benefit from seeing a genetic counselor who reviews personal and family history to assess the risk of disease development or recurrence, interprets medical data and test results, discusses the pros and cons of genetic testing, and provides education about disease prevention, screening, and treatment.

Genetic counselors are not doctors and do not give specific recommendations about testing or treatment. They provide patients with information needed to make intelligent medical decisions and to help them adapt to information that may have medical and psychological implications for themselves and their families.

"I most often see individuals who have had one or more family members with a certain type of cancer and who want to know what this may mean for them," explains Carrie Zabel, a board-certified genetic counselor at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Certain genes can be singled out for testing and will help determine if someone is at higher risk of developing breast, ovarian, colon, and...

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