By: Emily Goldberg Genetic Counselor
As a genetic counselor for the last 10 years, I’ve counseled patients about their cancer risks and guided them through the genetic testing process. I help them decide if genetic testing is right for them and explain how their test results might impact their physical and mental health. We discuss next steps and how to use this information to empower their health and their lives. We talk through their emotions and fears. Sometimes we just sit in silence. Every patient’s journey is unique, and their feelings are complex.
A patient’s genetic information can be a powerful tool in treating, screening for and preventing breast cancer. However, many patients do not have access to genetic counseling and testing or do not know how this information may contribute to their care. This is especially true for underserved communities who are much less likely to be referred to a genetic counselor.
Our goal at JScreen, a national non-profit based out of Emory University, is to make genetic education, screening and testing accessible. JScreen’s hereditary cancer test analyzes BRCA1/2 and over 60 other genes to provide valuable information about cancer risk. Testing is done from the comfort of one’s own home (using a saliva kit) and results are provided by a genetic counselor via telehealth. Our panel is available to all individuals regardless of background, cancer history or insurance coverage. We accept all U.S. insurances and financial assistance is available to those who need it.
Essentially, our goal is to get genetic testing into the hands of everyone who needs it in an affordable and responsible way. This means medical-grade testing and access to a genetic counselor who can appropriately interpret and counsel about the results. I don’t recommend that people rely on “direct to consumer” testing as these have shown to have inaccuracies, are insufficient as diagnostic tests and results are delivered without context. All genetic tests are not created equal and just getting the information itself is not enough. I have come to appreciate that the genetic testing experience can be stressful and results can be unexpected and overwhelming.
This is why I strongly urge anyone who is considering genetic testing to do it under the guidance and supervision of a trained expert in genetics and counseling. JScreen makes that easy. Genetic counselors are there to support you and help you sort through your results and emotions. At JScreen, our counselors review every case before testing is ordered. When the results are ready, we disclose positive results over the phone or by secure video. We periodically check-in with you to see how things are going and make appropriate referrals and recommendations for you and your family. We are there every step of the way.
Emily Goldberg is a genetic counselor for JScreen, a national non-profit based out of Emory University that offers genetic testing and education. JScreen makes genetic testing accessible and affordable by offering comprehensive, at-home genetic testing and counseling. To learn more, visit www.JScreen.org.