Writing down your questions before you go to your consultation will help you remember what you want to ask. Here are some suggestions:
- How do you assess my personal risk of getting a particular cancer?
- How sure are you about my risk?
- If there is a higher risk of cancer in my family, what are the options for screening or prevention?
- Are there any risks associated with screening?
- Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk?
- Who else might be at risk in my family?
- Do I need to tell my family? How do I approach the subject?
- Should my children be told? Can they be tested?
- What if I'm not at high risk of getting cancer? Will I get any follow-up?
- What if I want a test or screening, but it is not offered to me?
- Do I have to tell my insurance companies about my family history or about genetic tests?
(You may want to read our information on the issues to consider before having a genetic test.)
It may be useful to have another person with you at the consultation, to share your thoughts with afterwards. You may choose to take a member of your family or a friend.
If you don’t understand what you've been told, tell your genetic counsellor so they can explain again. You can also speak to them another time if you have more questions later on. Most consultants or counsellors will send you a letter after the meeting that summarises all the important points covered in your session.
Some people with a very strong family history of breast, ovarian, bowel, womb or pancreatic cancer may be offered genetic testing. But this usually only happens if a mutation has already been found in another member of your family.
If you’ve had cancer, you may be asked to give a blood sample to try to identify a mutation.
You don’t have to decide to have a test, or make any other decisions, straight away. You can take all the time that you need to think things through. Then you can choose whether to have a genetic test, screening, or any other options your consultant suggests.
If you’re thought to be at high risk of developing cancer because of your family history, you will be offered appropriate screening, whether you choose to have a genetic test or not.
There is a directory of all the genetic centres in the UK on the British Society of Human Genetics website.