7. Referrals‎ > ‎


When to refer

When should you refer a patient to a genetics specialist or genetic counselor?
  • If you've assessed a patient's family health history and found "genetic red flags" for cancer but are unsure how to fully interpret their family history data
  • If you've interpreted a patient's family history data and determined that she has a moderate to high predisposition for developing cancer and might be a candidate for genetic testing
  • If you've ordered a genetic test and are uncertain about interpreting the results
  • If you've ordered a genetic test and a patient has inherited a genetic mutation that associated with a higher risk for cancer
Your level of interaction can range from telephonic consultations to actual referrals. You should reach out to a specialist whenever it's necessary to provide your patient with the best standard of care.

What a cancer genetic specialist can do

A cancer genetic specialist or counselor can help:
  • evaluate and/or confirm suspected genetic risk
  • interpret a complex family history
  • diagnose or confirm a genetic predisposition to cancer
  • identify patients that need genetic testing or confirm your identification
  • identify options for screening, treatment, and/or reproductive planning
  • help patients communicate with family members
  • work with you to help identify the best health care strategy for your patient
Types of genetic specialists
  • Medical Geneticists (MD, PhD) - certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics
  • Genetic Counselors (MS) - certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and/or the American Board of Medical Genetics
Genetic services may include both medical geneticists and genetic counselors who work as a team.

Something to bear in mind

A cancer genetic specialist will initially be a stranger to your patient. You'll need to help prepare your patient for genetic counseling and follow-up on the recommendations of a genetic counselor with your patient.

Photo credits
Woman discussing breast examination with her GP during a consultation, by Wellcome Library, London, Welcome Images
DNA double helix and sequencing output by Peter Artymiuk, Wellcome Images