Genetic Counseling for Cancer

Genetic Counselor

At MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, our certified, masters-level trained genetic counselors help to educate you and your family about hereditary cancer, including your chance of having an inherited susceptibility to cancer, and the implications of your genetic test results.

During a genetic counseling session, our team takes a detailed, three-generation family history, discusses how you can manage your cancer risk, explains your genetic testing options, and provides recommendations for ongoing screening if needed.

Anyone can consider genetic counseling and testing, including people with active cancer, those who were diagnosed with cancer in the past, and those with a family member who is diagnosed with cancer. If there are signs that a hereditary cancer runs in your family, speak to your doctor or a genetic counselor to determine if you should be tested, particularly if:

  • You or a close relative is diagnosed with cancer at a young age (i.e., before age 50).
  • Multiple people on the same side of your family have the same or similar cancers.
  • You or someone in your family has multiple cancer diagnoses.
  •  You or a family member has been diagnosed with a rare cancer or tumor (such as male breast cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, pheochromocytoma) or individuals with multiple colon polyps.
  • You have been diagnosed with ovarian, pancreatic or high-risk prostate cancer.
  • Tumor testing in you or someone in your family indicates a genetic mutation.
  • You already know there is a genetic mutation related to cancer that runs in your family. 

If you have questions, aren’t sure if you should get tested, or just want to discuss your options, please call 843-792-0745 to request an appointment with one of our genetic counselors.

Genetic Testing for Cancer

Genetic testing can help determine your risk of developing a hereditary cancer. Although the technology and processes of genetic testing are advancing rapidly, test results can be complicated, and it is not recommended for everyone.

Generally, genetic testing involves drawing a blood or saliva sample to look for changes in your genes that might indicate an increased risk for cancer. If you have a cancer diagnosis, genetic testing can also help personalize your cancer screening and treatment recommendations going forward.

Genetic testing can help you and your family:

  • Understand your risk of developing certain cancers.
  • Manage your cancer risk through screening and risk reduction.
  • Guide your cancer treatment.
  • Assess the impact of an inherited genetic mutation on other family members.

Genetic testing to determine your hereditary cancer risk is usually done using a gene panel test to assess multiple genes at the same time. This allows you to learn as much information as you choose, but it can also uncover health information that you may have never thought about. That’s because gene panels assess multiple genes in addition to those that are associated with the familial cancer you are concerned about.

A panel test can uncover an unrelated mutation that may lead to a recommendation for preventive measures for a different type of cancer than you expected. For example, you may seek genetic testing out of concern about your family history of breast cancer, but your test results may find a mutation that increases your risk for colon cancer. These incidental findings complicate interpretation of your overall risk of developing a cancer and the risk faced by your family members.

Remember, genetic mutations are just one factor that can lead to a higher risk for cancer, and having a particular mutation does not necessarily mean that you will develop cancer.

Prepare for Your Genetic Counseling Visit

  • Bring your medical records, including your cancer history or abnormal biopsy results.
  • Gather your family cancer history. This should include both mother's and father's sides, type of cancer, age at diagnosis and treatment outcomes.
  • If available, collect lab reports from previous genetic testing that was done in your family.
  • Prepare a list of questions or concerns to ask during your visit.
  • Bring a family member or support person with you to your appointment.

Scheduling an Appointment

To schedule an appointment, please call 843-792-0745. If you have any additional questions, please send us an email at