Genetic Counselling

What is genetic counselling?

The goal of genetic counselling is to help people with a significant personal and/or family history of cancer, as well those with a family history of breast, ovarian, prostate, or pancreatic cancer and Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, to learn more about hereditary cancer and possibly access genetic testing.

Where can I receive genetic counselling?

In the province of British Columbia, genetic counselling is offered through the provincially-funded Hereditary Cancer Program. For people with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage who do not currently qualify for the Hereditary Cancer Program, there is also a free genetic counselling program offered via telephone by Sharsheret. For more specific information, please see their website. The following information applies only to BC’s genetic counselling services.

What normally happens in a genetic counselling appointment through BC’s Hereditary Cancer Program?

A genetic counselling appointment usually includes:

  • Review of your “family tree”, especially any history of cancer
  • Information about genes & cancer
  • Information about how genes are passed down from parents to children
  • Review of differences between “sporadic” cancers (occur by chance), and “hereditary” cancers (may be linked to a specific gene)
  • Assessment of the chance of hereditary cancer in your family history, and the related cancer risks
  • Discussion about whether genetic testing to try to identify a specific “hereditary cancer gene mutation” is available for you and/or your family (a gene mutation is a change that prevents the gene from working properly)
  • Discussion about how to decide whether or not to have genetic testing, including the possible impact on family relationships and other risks, benefits, and limitations
  • Current recommendations for early detection (cancer screening) and/or prevention of cancers

How long will the appointment take?

45 minutes is booked for most appointments.

Can I bring family members to my appointment? If so, who should I invite?

Yes! You are welcome to include other adults with whom you feel comfortable. You may wish to invite your spouse or a supportive friend. You may wish to invite relatives who share similar concerns about cancer risk in your family.

If I choose to have genetic testing, how will the results be disclosed?

Results can be disclosed in-person, through TeleHealth (at your local hospital), or by telephone; whichever works best for you.