Genetic Counseling, Testing & Risk Assessment

Certain types of cancer have a hereditary link, meaning you can inherit a greater risk for getting cancer and possibly pass that risk onto your children.

Genetic testing looks for variants in certain genes that are associated with increased risk of cancers including breast, ovarian, colon and uterine cancer. Only five to 10 percent of cancers have a hereditary link, so most cases are not caused by a genetic mutation. People also can carry a mutation associated with cancer risk and never develop cancer.

The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute’s licensed, board-certified genetic counselors assess your personal and family history to identify whether you might carry a genetic variant that puts you at risk of certain cancers. Our experts will support you in making choices about genetic testing and will discuss health recommendations based on test results.

Our program follows national guidelines. We offer risk assessment, genetic counseling, testing, information on risk-reducing options and help accessing specialty care services

Counseling and testing eligibility

You may be eligible for genetic counseling and testing if you:

  • Had cancer before you turned 50
  • Have had two or more cancers
  • Have or had a less common cancer, like ovarian cancer
  • Have a strong family history of certain types of cancer


Our program begins with genetic counseling. You will meet with one of our counselors to learn the connection between your genes and your health, and how you and your family might benefit from testing.

Because there are different types of genetic tests, your counselor will ask about your medical and family history. There will be questions about any cancer you or relatives have had, and the age at which the cancer was diagnosed.


Genetic testing involves giving a blood or saliva sample, which is sent to special laboratories. Test results are returned to your genetic counselor who will call you to review the results.

The counselor will also help you understand any risk suggested by your test results for you and your family.

Options after testing

If your test results show a genetic variant that could increase your risk of certain cancers, your counselor will let you know what options are available to reduce that risk.

Risk-reducing options can include:

  • Referral to specialists
  • Earlier or more frequent cancer screening
  • Medication
  • Risk-reducing surgery
  • Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, increasing exercise and eating healthier

If you have already been diagnosed with cancer, knowing whether a genetic variant has played a role can help you decide about treatments for the cancer. It can also help your family members understand their risk for developing cancer.

Our Program

The Cancer Genetics Program offers genetic counseling at:

  • Hartford Hospital’s Hartford, Avon and Manchester locations
  • The Hospital of Central Connecticut
  • MidState Medical Center
  • St. Vincent’s Medical Center
  • Other Hartford HealthCare locations where physicians and nurse practitioners are specially trained to see patients for genetic counseling and testing.

Referrals are required for genetic testing.

A member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, we provide innovative care close to home.

We offer the latest treatments through our ongoing membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Alliance, which gives you access to the latest standards of care and clinical trials.

The MSK Alliance

Support at the Cancer Institute

The Cancer Institute offers whatever you and your family need on your journey, whether it’s access to an oncology social worker, a nurse navigator to coordinate your care or the support of our Patient and Family Resource Center.

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute