Genetic Counseling In Healthcare

Genetic Counseling in Healthcare

Genetic counseling in healthcareAs members of the health care team, certified genetic counselors help families affected by (or at risk for) inherited conditions. They serve as resources for other health care professionals, patients and the general public.

Many certified genetic counselors work in medical settings. They work with people seeking a diagnosis, who have just received a diagnosis, or have questions about the likelihood of developing an inherited condition.

Certified genetic counselors often work in a medical genetics clinic, or with other types of medical teams, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiology
  • Neurology
  • Prenatal care
  • Many others

Common Questions 

  • When to Seek Genetic Testing

    When might I want genetic testing?

    Genetic testing can help you understand and manage the risk of an inherited condition.

    Testing may help you:

    • Confirm a diagnosis if you have symptoms of an inherited condition
    • Determine your chance of getting an inherited condition if you do not have symptoms
    • Find out if you are a carrier of an inherited condition that could increase the chance of having a child with that condition.

    There are several different kinds of genetic tests that may be ordered:

    • Chromosome tests look for changes in the structure of your chromosomes, which are packages of DNA. An extra or missing chromosome may cause a condition such as Down syndrome.
    • Molecular genetic tests look for changes in one or more genes that may cause an inherited condition.
    • Exome or genome tests look for changes in many different genes at the same time.
    • Protein tests look at the proteins made by genes to see if they are working as they should.
  • Reasons to Seek a Certified Genetic Counselor

    Why might I see a certified genetic counselor?

    You might see a certified genetic counselor if:

    • You have an inherited condition
    • You think you may have an inherited condition
    • A family member has an inherited condition
    • You are concerned about passing on a condition
    • You want to understand the chances that you might develop an inherited condition in the future
    • You want to talk about your genetic testing results

    A certified genetic counselor may already be a part of your health care team. If not, you can find one by using our Find a Certified Genetic Counselor search.

  • Understanding Your Genes

    Understanding Your Genes

    We live in an exciting time for science and medicine. Your genetic information may actually be used to manage your health care.

    There are thousands of conditions for which genetic testing is available. If appropriate, a certified genetic counselor may offer you genetic testing. As a first step toward understanding your genes, it’s helpful to review the basics.

    What are genes and how do they work?

    Our bodies are made out of cells. Cells are the building blocks of our tissues, organs, and body systems. Inside each cell there are 46 chromosomes. Chromosomes are strings of genetic information organized in a code made out of four chemicals that work like a four-letter alphabet. Half of our 46 chromosomes come from our mother and the other half comes from our father. Genes are the instruction manuals of our bodies. Each person has approximately 20,000 genes. Genes come in pairs: we inherit one from our mother and one from our father. Therefore, there are two matching genes that code for each trait.

  • What to Do After a Referral to a Certified Genetic Counselor

    I’ve been referred to a certified genetic counselor. What should I do now?

    Most people find it useful to meet with a certified genetic counselor. One of the first things you should do to prepare for an appointment is to gather information about your family medical history.

    Medical conditions in the family can be a result of variation in genes. It can help to identify features in your family that suggest a higher or lower risk for an inherited condition. You should ask about the following:

    • Age of living family members
    • Age of family members when they died
    • Major disease(s) or diagnoses in the family and the age at diagnosis
    • Previous genetic tests

    Discussing personal and family health history with a certified genetic counselor is the best next step toward understanding your genes. A certified genetic counselor is like an expert gene navigator. She or he can help you understand the likelihood of developing an inherited condition. If genetic testing is available and appropriate, she or he can help you make an informed decision.