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Cancer Genetic Counseling and Testing

You’ve just found out you may have a higher genetic risk for cancer. Now you may be asking, “What does this mean for me — and my future?”

Some cancers can be passed down (inherited) through families. If a relative has had it, it means you could be at a higher risk of getting cancer, too. Or you might never develop cancer, but you could be carrying a genetic risk factor that you could still pass down to your child. And that’s where cancer genetics comes in. It can help reveal if you have an inherited cancer risk and, if you do, what may lie ahead and how we can help you stay as healthy as possible.

Cleveland Clinic’s team of experts study the genes, chromosomes and proteins that cause inherited (genetic) cancer. Our team walks you and your family through every step of genetic counseling and testing. We use what we learn to help you understand your family’s risk for certain cancers. And we work with you to improve your chances of finding cancer early so you can make important life and healthcare decisions.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Cancer Genetic Counseling and Testing?

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Caring approach:

Our cancer genetic counselors are experts at explaining what your test results mean. We share what’s important for you to know in terms you can understand. We’re also here to support you as you get ready to share test results with your family.

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Collaborative care:

The team includes providers from our genetics and cancer specialties. They work together to make sure you and your family get answers quickly. And if you need it, they’ll schedule the testing and specialist appointments you need to help with screenings and early detection. Meet our team.

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Convenience and privacy:

Our cancer genetic counseling often takes just one appointment. You can meet us at one of many locations. Or we can do much of the process over the phone or with a virtual visit. We don’t share your genetic test results with anyone without your permission. We can help you through the process if you choose to share the results with your family.

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Innovation and research:

Cleveland Clinic has a large research program to improve cancer genetics counseling and testing. Through our clinical trials, you may be able to have the new screening tests that aren’t widely available.

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic is a trusted healthcare leader. We're recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for our expertise and care.

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Virtual visits:

We want your care to be convenient. That’s why we also offer virtual visits for some appointments. If you have an internet connection and smartphone, tablet or computer, you can talk one-on-one with your providers from the comfort and privacy of home.

Getting a Cancer Genetics Evaluation at Cleveland Clinic

Most types of cancer start growing by chance. But sometimes people are born with genetic mutations that cause cancer in multiple family members across generations. The world of genetics has expanded so greatly that we’re now able to better identify if you and other family members are predisposed to (more likely to get) cancer because of inherited factors.

Cleveland Clinic can help you better understand this risk through personalized cancer genetic counseling and testing. We recommend this if you or a family member have a history of:

  • Cancer diagnosed before age 50.
  • Several family generations affected by cancer.
  • Several kinds of cancer.
  • Multiple primary (original) cancers in one person (like ovarian and breast cancers, kidney cancer in both kidneys, etc.).
  • A previously identified genetic mutation (or mutations).
  • Rare tumors such as paraganglioma or medullary thyroid cancer (MTC).
  • More than 10 colon polyps.
  • Belonging to a racial or ethnic group known for having certain inherited cancers and have one or more of the factors listed above.

To start cancer genetic counseling at Cleveland Clinic, you'll need to get a referral from your primary care provider (PCP) or another provider before you can request an appointment. If you're a patient outside of Cleveland Clinic, please have your physician complete a referral form and fax to 216.445.6935.

What to expect at your first visit

When you come to Cleveland Clinic for cancer genetic counseling and testing, you’ll want to be prepared to share information with us about your personal and family medical history. Our cancer genetic counselors will guide you through this. Your story is an important part of this journey, so they’ll be asking questions like:

  • What relatives have been diagnosed with cancer?
  • How are/were those individuals related to you? For example, a sibling or a cousin? On your mother’s or father’s side?
  • What type of cancer did each person have?
  • How old was each person at cancer diagnosis?
  • Did the individuals die from cancer? At what age?
  • Has anyone in your family had genetic testing?

When we ask about family, this includes first-degree relatives (parents, siblings and children) and second-degree relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, half-siblings and cousins). Even if you don’t have all the details, the information you share can help us get a better picture of your cancer risk.

Our team also collects medical records from your PCP and any other healthcare providers you’ve seen. With all the available information, your cancer genetic counselor will create a family tree, also called a pedigree.

We use this pedigree to start learning whether you may be at increased risk for cancer. The information can be complex, but we use easy-to-understand language and take time to answer all your questions. We’re here to support you through every step.

Second Opinions for Cancer Genetic Counseling and Testing

Learning that you may have a higher risk for developing cancer can be an emotional moment. You’ll want to make sure you’re working with a team of healthcare providers you trust to give you the best possible genetic counseling and testing. At Cleveland Clinic, we encourage second opinions. If you’ve had cancer genetic tests and want another expert opinion on interpreting the results, we’re here for you. And because we know cancer doesn’t wait, we’ll always try to get you in to see us as soon as possible after you reach out to us.

Meet Our Cancer Genetic Counseling and Testing Team

We believe in team-based care at Cleveland Clinic. If you come here for counseling and testing, you’ll have a team of specialists from our cancer and genetics specialties working together to find out if you’re at risk. And we’ll work together to develop a personalized plan to help you manage that risk. Your team could include:

12 Genetic Experts Providing Care

Clinical Geneticists

Genetic Counselors


  • Lauren Bokovitz, MS, CGC.
  • Kamille Clever, MS, CGC.
  • Maribeth Golm, MS, CGC.
  • Jessica Marquard, MS, CGC.
  • Sarah McGee, MS, CGC.
  • Daniel Mitchell MS, CGC.
  • Ryan Noss, MS, CGC.
  • Brittany Stewart, MS, CGC.


  • Sara Rhode, MS, CGC.
  • Vanessa Marcell, MS, CGC.


Our healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio and Florida.

Cancer Genetic Testing at Cleveland Clinic

Next, we may recommend genetic testing to gather more information. This usually involves a blood or saliva test that can even be collected during the same appointment. The test can show genetic mutations (changes) that increase your risk of cancer. It can take up to a few weeks to a month to get the results.

If testing shows you have an increased risk for cancer, your genetic counseling team is here for you. We’ll:

  • Help you understand your test results and provide psychological support as you talk with your family about them.
  • Schedule relevant cancer screening tests, like a mammogram or prostate exam.
  • Arrange any needed consultations with cancer experts to talk about ways to reduce your cancer risk.
  • Work with you to make lifestyle changes that can reduce your cancer risk, like eating balanced meals, stopping smoking and exercising more.

Taking the Next Step

Understanding cancer genetics can help you pinpoint your cancer risk. In a few visits, Cleveland Clinic’s cancer genetic counseling team can help you find ways to manage and reduce your risk, and help your family do the same. While gene mutations don’t necessarily mean you’ll get cancer, we work with you to design a detailed plan so you can prevent, detect and — if needed — treat it as early as possible.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s cancer genetics experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.

Make an Appointment

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s cancer genetics experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.

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Learning you have cancer can be stressful, shocking and challenging. From the moment you get the news, you're a survivor. As you face the challenges that go along with cancer treatment and recovery — physical and emotional — we’ll be right there with you.

At Cleveland Clinic, survivorship care is one part of your journey. We offer a wide range of services, resources, clinics and support groups to help with any physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs you might have related to your cancer diagnosis. Lending a helping hand along the way, we want you to not only survive, but thrive on this journey and beyond.

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