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Genetic Counseling

Genetics can influence your health and wellness. Gundersen Health System genetic counselors can help you analyze hereditary information and develop personalized treatment plans in the following specialty care areas:

  • Cancer
  • Fertility
  • Pediatrics
  • Prenatal

Our genetic counselors offer their services in La Crosse or via telemedicine throughout the region.

Preparing for your appointment

Your personal and family medical history is important. You can prepare for an appointment with our genetic counselors by:

  • Asking relatives about your family's medical history. If possible, get the most detailed account of the condition that has been diagnosed in your family (if applicable), and the ages at which diagnosis occurred.
  • Gathering any medical records related to your concerns or diagnosis.
  • Preparing a list of questions you would like to ask your genetic counselor.

A typical appointment

The initial meeting with your genetic counselor usually is about an hour. Genetic testing and follow-up appointments may occur. Your initial counseling session may include:

  • Review of your personal and family medical history
  • A risk assessment for you and other immediate relatives
  • Education about your concerns or diagnosis
  • Information on genetic testing options
  • Genetic testing (such as a blood sample) if indicated after the discussion
  • Discussion of the meaning of possible genetic test results
  • Information on long-term resources

Frequently asked questions

  • Will seeing a genetic counselor cost me a lot of money?
    If you need genetic testing, most health plans may cover some or all of the cost. Your genetic counselor will discuss the cost of genetic testing at your appointment. You can always check with your insurance company for specific coverage.
  • Will I face the risk of losing my insurance coverage if I see a genetic counselor?
    No. With the passing of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, both employers and health insurance companies cannot discriminate against patients because of genetic testing results.
  • Is the information discussed in my meeting with a genetic counselor confidential?
    As with all other aspects of healthcare, confidentiality of risk assessment and results is important. No information discussed in the meeting will be shared with third parties without consent.
  • How long will it take to receive my genetic testing results if I were to partake in testing?
    Depending on the type of genetic tests, results can take several weeks. In your appointment, if genetic testing is indicated, your genetic counselor will provide you with a timeline for results.

Types of genetic counseling


Many factors affect your probability of developing cancer, but our genetic counselors can assess your risk of inherited cancer. While most cancers are not hereditary, breast, ovarian, colon, uterine, prostate and some others can be. Genetic assessment and testing is helpful so you and your family can understand the role genetics plays in your risk of developing cancer and consider options to minimize risk.

Cancer-related genetic counseling can:

  • Determine if there is an increased risk
  • Assess the probability of developing cancer
  • Offer options for treatment, prevention and risk reduction
  • Help patients of all ages

Our genetic counselors can give you personalized information and care when it comes to your overall concerns about cancer and genetic health, especially if you have:

  • A family history of cancer
  • Immediate relatives (parents, children, sisters or brothers) with cancer
  • Extended family members on the same side of the family that have related cancers
  • Concerns about your risks of developing cancer
  • Been diagnosed with early onset, rare, or multiple types of cancer
  • A genetic syndrome or a known genetic mutation that predispose you to an increased risk of developing cancer

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If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant and experience infertility, Gundersen Fertility Center provides genetic counseling options to analyze your family history and determine personalized treatment options.

Services include:

  • Preimplantation genetic diagnosis: Testing cells from embryos of couples who have a specific genetic condition they do not want to pass on to their children.
  • Preimplantation genetic screening: For couples who need testing for genetic conditions involving whole chromosomes or large areas of a chromosome. This is appropriate for couples with multiple miscarriages.

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When your child has a developmental problem, birth defect or one of a wide variety of changes that might point to a genetic disorder, there is often a question of what the underlying cause might be.

Gundersen Health System has a specially trained genetics team to help families screen for and manage genetic disorders. Understanding the underlying cause can help your child get the right treatment, know what to expect in the future, and be aware if any other family members are at risk.

Our genetics team includes a medical geneticist and genetics counselors. A child (or adult) may be referred to this team for different reasons, such as:

  • Birth defects
  • Developmental delays
  • Autism
  • If a genetic disorder has been identified in the family
  • Down syndrome
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Heart disorders
  • Neurologic disorders

Our genetics team will work with your family to determine a genetic cause. We will:

  • Examine your child 
  • Review your family medical history
  • Order further testing, if needed (e.g. blood tests, X-rays or other lab work) 
  • Analyze the results 
  • Work with you to develop a treatment plan

Our genetics counselors will also help you coordinate care. We provide education to manage the disorder, and coordinate further tests that may be needed. We may also evaluate other family members and provide information on how a disorder could affect them.

Our genetics team works closely with your child's primary care provider and other departments to provide the best overall care.

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Genetic tests performed during pregnancy can show your chances of having a child with a disease or some other problem carried in your genes. All women are offered these tests, but whether you choose to have the test done is a personal choice. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or nurse midwife.

The following diagnostic tests may be performed during pregnancy:

  • Amniocentesis: Baby chromosomes can be studied in samples of amniotic fluid. When needed, this is done between 15 and 18 weeks. You will have complete genetic counseling before amniocentesis. Not all pregnant women need this test.
  • Chorionic Villus Sampling: This test is also used to study baby chromosomes before birth. Tiny amounts of placenta are removed between weeks 9 and 13. If you need this test, you will be referred to the nearest university genetic testing center.
  • Cystic Fibrosis Testing: You can choose to be tested to see if your baby has an increased chance of having cystic fibrosis (CF).
  • First Trimester Screening: This screening tells you what your risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 13 using a finger poke and an ultrasound measurement along with your age (or age of egg donor in case of egg donation). The blood test needs to be done between 9 weeks gestation and 13 weeks and 6 days gestation. The ultrasound is a measurement of an area on the back of the baby's neck. It is done between 11 weeks gestation and 13 weeks and 6 days gestation.
  • Maternal Serum Screening: Sometime during your fourth month, you can choose to have Maternal Serum Screening performed. This blood test can tell you if there is an increased chance your baby may have Down syndrome or spina bifida. This test is an option
  • Ultrasound: Using ultrasound to make an image of the baby, placenta and uterus has become widespread. At Gundersen, we perform this service in Obstetrics. You find out test results right away. By looking at the ultrasound image, the doctor can tell the sex and position of the baby and placenta.

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Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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