Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling and testing serves people who have an increased risk for hereditary cancer. The program is available at Greenwich Hospital’s Bendheim Cancer Center through an outreach clinic of Yale Cancer Center and the Yale School of Medicine.

Knowledge of their genetic risks can help individuals make informed decisions about managing their health and reducing their risks for cancer.

Who is eligible for genetic counseling?

People may benefit from genetic counseling if they have a personal or family history that includes:

  • A diagnosis of cancer at an early age (before age 45 for breast cancer or before 50 for colon and uterine cancer)
  • Multiple relatives on the same side of the family with the same or related types of cancer, such as breast/ovarian/pancreatic cancer or colon/uterine/ovarian cancer
  • More than one cancer diagnosis in the same individual, such as breast and ovarian cancers or colon and uterine cancers
  • Rare cancers, such as male breast cancer
  • A family history of a known, altered cancer-predisposition gene
  • Jewish ancestry, which increases the risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

What to Expect

Genetic counseling involves a series of steps and appointments.

  1. Family history
  2. A detailed history can help determine if the cancers in the family are likely caused by a hereditary cancer syndrome and, if so, which one. Assessments are complicated because more than 30 different hereditary cancer syndromes exist. Risk assessments are based entirely on the family history and medical information provided by individuals. It helps to collect this information before meeting with the genetic counselor.

  3. Exploring the options
  4. The next step involves a detailed discussion of the likelihood the cancers are hereditary and which genetic tests, if any, are appropriate. The genetic counselor also reviews options for prevention, surveillance and future genetic testing.

  5. Genetic testing, accurate result interpretation
  6. Individuals who proceed with genetic testing receive their test results in person. Laboratory methods are used to obtain a more precise estimate of a person’s risk. The genetic counselor interprets the test results; discusses their impact on the individual and family; and develops a management plan based on the findings.

Specialized Care by Certified Experts

Individuals with a personal or family history of cancer should consider seeing a certified cancer genetic counselor for a personalized risk assessment and a review of the risks and benefits of testing. The process does not simply involve a positive or negative test result. Choosing a genetic counselor who is certified in this specialty is important to assure the right tests are ordered and the results interpreted correctly.


Jennifer Doherty, MS, of the Yale Cancer Center, meets with individuals at Smilow Cancer Hospital Greenwich Hospital Campus (Bendheim Cancer Center), Suite 200, once a month. She is board-certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in genetic counseling. The program is part of Yale Cancer Center, a comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute.

To make a genetic counseling appointment at Greenwich Hospital, call the Yale Cancer Genetic Counseling Program, 203-200-4362.