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Genetic Counseling

Know the risks early

What is genetic counseling?

The Cancer Center at Cookeville Regional has the only full-time genetic counselor between Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Genetic counseling is a process of providing information and support about genetics and inherited conditions to an individual or family. The goal of genetic counseling is to provide clear and clinically relevant information about genetic risk factors in a way that both supports and educates.

Most cancers are not hereditary or due to a broken gene that is passed down through the family. In fact, only 5-10 percent of cancers are thought to be due to a broken gene that a person is born with.

The BRCA1/2 genes are the most well-known genes that are reported in the news today. These two genes account for the majority of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers in women, but there are also other genes that are associated with these cancers. Colon, pancreatic, prostate, stomach, kidney, and more rare cancers can also be associated with different hereditary causes.

For most patients, genetic counseling and testing provides patients with the opportunity to be proactive with their health and/or the health of their family members. However, it is important to discuss the appropriateness and implications of genetic testing with a genetic counselor in order to determine if genetic testing is right for you.

Meet the Counselor

Ashley Cohen, MS, CGC, is Cookeville Regional’s full-time counselor.

A genetic counselor is a board certified, licensed healthcare provider who has expertise in assessing hereditary cancer risk, providing education on genetic testing options, as well as discussing the implications, benefits, and limitations of genetic testing for the patient and their family members.

If you decide that you would like to pursue genetic testing, the genetic counselor is able to assess your personal and family history to make sure that you are tested for the right genes.

Who should consider having a genetics risk assessment?

Between 5-10% of all cancers are hereditary, which means that changes (or mutations) in specific genes are passed from one blood relative to another.

People who inherit one of these gene changes will have a higher risk of developing cancer at some point in their life. Genetic counseling can help people understand this risk.

  • Personal or family history of cancer diagnosed at young ages
  • Same type of cancer in multiple relatives on the same side of the family
  • Strong family history of multiple types of cancers
  • Personal history of >10 colon polyps
  • Personal or family history of rare cancers (i.e. ovarian, stomach, pancreatic, kidney cancers, etc)
  • Personal or family history of a genetic mutation already detected by prior genetic testing
  • Personal or family history of a genetic mutation already detected by prior genetic testing.

What happens during a genetic counseling session?

There are many steps involved in a genetic counseling consultation.

  • Assess personal and family history to determine the likelihood of a hereditary cancer risk
  • Address implications of genetic testing, including the impact on medical management as well as family members
  • Review the possible results, benefits, and limitations of genetic testing
  • Discuss genetic testing options
  • Identify relatives who may be candidates for genetic testing
  • Support the patient as they make informed decisions regarding cancer risk reduction options, surveillance, and treatment
  • Discuss insurance coverage, cost of testing, privacy, and legal protections against genetic discrimination

If you decide to pursue genetic testing, a blood or saliva sample is collected during your initial consultation.

Results are typically available within 1-4 weeks, depending on the type of test ordered. A follow-up consultation is scheduled to review the results, discuss your medical management recommendations, and answer any questions that you may have.


Genetic testing is typically covered by insurance companies.

However, the genetic testing laboratories guarantee to contact the patient if their out of pocket cost is over $100.


Ashley Cohen,

931-783-2476 or