Preparing for Your Appointment

Cancer genetic counseling and/or testing may help guide how your doctors take care of you, now or in the future. It may also provide important information for your family members. 

We will start by asking about your personal and family history of cancer. It is important to know who in your family had cancer, where their cancer started, and how old they were when they were diagnosed. Based on your personal and family history, we will explain whether or not there might be a genetic risk for cancer in your family. Sometimes genetic testing is recommended, but not always.  

We will discuss the possible benefits, drawbacks, and limitations of genetic testing for you. If genetic testing is not recommended, we will talk with you about what cancer screening may make sense for you based on your family history.

Your counseling will be more helpful if you provide correct and detailed information about your personal and/or family history of cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, please be prepared to share what type of cancer you had and how old you were when you were diagnosed. If you were diagnosed and treated outside of UNC, it may be helpful to provide us with medical records that detail the type of cancer you had. Pathology reports can be especially helpful. We are usually able to access these records for people who were diagnosed and/or treated at UNC.

Ask your family about their health history before your appointment. We will ask for information about your children, brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and grandparents. It can be helpful to write this information down before your appointment and bring a copy of it with you.

You should collect the following information:

  • Type of cancer, tumors, or polyps in relatives and what age they were diagnosed. Pathology reports are very helpful if available
  • Approximate ages of your living relatives
  • Ages at which relatives died and their cause of death
  • Your ancestry on both sides of the family (for example: English, African-American, Lumbee, Jewish)

It is also important to ask your relatives if they have had any hereditary cancer genetic testing. Please fax or email a copy of their test results to us before your appointment, or bring a copy with you to your appointment. This will help make sure that you get the best genetic testing.  When sending a relative’s results, please make sure to include your name and how you are related to the person who had testing.