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To find out more, call (970) 569-7669 or email CancerGenetics@VailHealth.org

Shaw Cancer Center offers hereditary cancer genetic counseling services Monday through Friday. 

Hereditary Cancer Services

There are many different factors that influence if someone will develop cancer. Some people have inherited a genetic change (pathogenic variant) that increases their risk of developing cancer. This is called a hereditary predisposition to develop cancer.  

People who have a hereditary predisposition to develop cancer may need to start their cancer screening earlier and complete their screens more often. There may also be options to lower their chance to develop cancer through medications or surgeries. Additionally, genetic testing results may impact cancer treatment. 

The Shaw Cancer Center's genetics team evaluates personal and family medical histories related to cancer. They help patients understand how genetic testing may or may not help them. If a patient wants to undergo testing, our providers will help order the test and explain the results.

How to schedule an appointment:

If you feel you are at risk, speak with one of your healthcare providers. They can send a referral for genetic counseling to the Shaw Cancer Center. This helps us keep your doctor informed about your care moving forward.  

  • The referral should include the reason for the referral, a copy of your contact information, and a copy of your most recent health insurance card. 
  • Fax it to (970) 470-6675 or email it to CancerGenetics@VailHealth.org
Once we receive your referral, you will be contacted by phone to set up a telehealth genetic counseling appointment. Most patients are contacted within 1-2 weeks of referral receipt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Genetic counselors are healthcare providers who have specialized training in genetics. They work with patients to provide education and risk assessment regarding potential genetic conditions. They provide psychosocial support through decisions and results. Lastly, they help explain genetic test results and the impact on a patient and their family. 
During a genetic counseling appointment, the genetic counselor will review your personal health history and family history related to cancer. You will then receive a risk assessment for hereditary cancer conditions, discuss genetic testing options, the potential results and the meaning of the results. The genetic counselor will help you determine if you want to proceed with genetic testing. Genetic testing is optional and not required if you have a genetic counseling appointment.
Before meeting with a genetic counselor, it is helpful to gather your family medical history information. The genetic counselor will ask about your relatives (children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.) It will be helpful to know who in the family has had cancer, including the type of cancer and their age of diagnosis.  If anyone (including yourself) has had genetic testing, it will be important to obtain a copy and send it to the genetic counselor (before the appointment if possible.) If you do not know your biological family, or have limited family history information, we will still be able to counsel you to help you decide if you want to proceed with genetic testing. 
If genetic testing is ordered, most tests will be conducted on either a blood or saliva sample. Which sample is chosen for testing depends on the test ordered and the patient. A saliva sample can be completed at home and returned to the genetic testing lab through FedEx. Most blood samples are drawn at the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards and sent to the genetic testing lab. There are several labs that specialize in hereditary cancer genetic testing. The lab chosen for your test will depend on factors such as the genes being tested, type of test ordered, and insurance. 
The cost of genetic testing will vary depending on several factors, including the test ordered and a person’s health insurance coverage. The cost billed to an insurance company varies based on the lab and test. For most patients, their portion of the cost will be $250 or less. Additionally, genetic testing labs offer patient assistance programs that may help with the cost of testing. This is typically discussed further during an appointment. 
The self-pay rate for a genetic counseling appointment at Vail Health is currently $116 (per appointment.) The cost of genetic testing varies based on the test order, but some genetic testing laboratories offer self-pay options of $250 for hereditary cancer panel tests. The genetic counselor will review the testing options (if recommended) and the information available on self-pay rates.
Each person and family’s situation are different. Testing in minors is typically only recommended if it will immediately change their management (for example starting certain cancer screens in childhood or treating a current cancer diagnosis differently.) A genetic counselor can help you (and your child) determine if testing may be helpful at this time. 
Genetic testing can provide helpful information to a person and their family about the cause of cancers in the family and risk of developing cancers in the future. While this information may be valuable for implementing screening and risk-reducing options, it may also bring up difficult emotions and lifelong implications. The genetic counselor will talk about this during the appointment and will help support you if you experience these emotions. 
Genetic information is private health information and is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA.)  

Clinical grade genetic testing is conducted at specialized genetic testing labs that also follow HIPAA and other applicable laws.  

There are federal laws that help to prevent discrimination by employers and health insurance companies based on genetic information (see GINA under helpful resources.) This also provides protection against disclosure of genetic information by HIPAA covered groups. Additionally, some states provide additional protections to prevent discrimination by other entities, such as life insurance (see Colorado resources below.) 

Helpful Resources

More information about genetic counseling  More information about hereditary cancer risks  Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) 

The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 provides protections from discrimination based on genetic information in the workplace and with health insurance. This federal law has exceptions and does not extend to other types of insurance, such as long-term care, disability, or life insurance. Some states have laws that cover some or all of the entities that are not specifically protected by GINA. 

For more information, please visit The National Human Genome Research Initiative (NIH) webpage on genetic discrimination 

Colorado specific laws regarding genetic discrimination 

The NIH’s national Human Genome Research Initiative provides the Genome Statute and Legislation Database, a public, searchable database of state laws relating to genetics.