What Is Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling is the process of providing individuals and families with information regarding the nature, inheritance, and implications of genetic conditions to help them make informed medical and personal decisions.
Who are Genetic Counselors?
Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. They work as members of a health care team, providing information and support to families who have members with birth defects or genetic disorders and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions. They identify families at risk, investigate the problem present in the family, interpret information about the disorder, analyze inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence and review available optionswith the family.
Why Should I Refer to a Genetic Counselor?
Rapid advances in understanding the human genome have brought forth a landslide of genetic information that is readily applicable to patient care. The provision of genetic services, in turn, has grown increasingly complex, requiring providers to possess a unique combination of both scientific knowledge and counseling skills.
With genetic counselors’ training and continuing education objectives being dedicated to the procurement of these skills, the profession has long been, and will continue to be, a key playerin providing genetic services.
When Should I Refer to a Genetic Counselor?
Genetic counselors are trained to provide counseling to a wide variety of patients. Thousands of genetic disorders have been identified. Indications for which an individual or family may receive genetic counseling include:
Preconception or Prenatal: Individuals or couples who are planning pregnancy or currently pregnant, and are concerned that they may be at increased risk to have children with birth defect or a genetic condition either due to family history reasons, an abnormal screen result,a finding on an ultrasound, and/or maternal age.
Pediatric: Families may meet with a medical geneticist and genetic counselor in an effort to establish a diagnosis for their child’s condition. A geneticist may also provide recommendations for medical management of the condition.
Adult: Individuals with a personal and/or family history of an adult-onset genetic condition,such as neurologic and muscular degenerative diseases, cancer, hemophilia or thrombophilia, or cardiovascular disease may be referred to a genetic counselor for risk assessment, coordination of appropriate genetic testing and interpretation of genetic test results.
If you’d like more information about genetic counseling please see the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) at www.nsgc.org