Why Genetic Counseling?
What Could a Genetic Counselor Do for Me?
Why would genetic counseling be helpful? A genetic counselor can help you understand the genetic contribution to various health conditions as well as any available genetic testing options. A genetic counselor can help you think through which (if any) genetic testing is best for you, discussing if and how genetic test results would impact your personalized healthcare recommendations. A genetic counselor can also help you understand the implications of any genetic test results for your family members.
What Qualifications Does a Genetic Counselor Have?
Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals with training in both human medical genetics and counseling.
Genetic Counselors have Masters of Science degrees in Human Genetics and pass a national board exam to become Certified Genetic Counselors (CGC). The names of the Masters degrees vary slightly. You may see MS or MSc; you may see degrees in “Genetic Counseling” rather than “Human Genetics,” but all programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC).
Genetic counselors are licensed in some states but not in others. While the steps required to obtain licensure vary from state to state, the core qualifications for applying for licensure are the same: a Masters degree from an ACGC-accredited program and ABGC certification in genetic counseling.
States with Genetic Counselor Licensure
Who Should See a Genetic Counselor?
Although anyone can benefit from genetic counseling, physicians and other healthcare providers will often refer patients to a genetic counselor for specific reasons.
These are some examples (although by no means a complete listing):
Current Pregnancy or Family Planning
- A family history of an inherited condition
- A history of multiple (2-3) miscarriages
- A positive result on a prenatal screening test that prompts further testing to be offered to a patient
- Ultrasound findings with a possible genetics association
- Older ages of parents (ex. >35yo for women or >40yo for men)
In 2007, the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) published Practice Guidelines on Indications for Genetic Referral. Although genetic testing technologies and options have changed significantly within the past 10 years, the indications for genetic referral have remained similar.
- A personal or family history of cardiovascular conditions that affect the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) and that can have a hereditary basis. (ex. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or Dilated Cardiomyopathy)
- A personal or family history of cardiovascular conditions that affect the electrical system of the heart (arrhythmia) and that can have a hereditary basis. (ex. Long QT Syndrome, Brugada syndrome)
- A family history of unexplained sudden death or cardiac arrest
- A personal or family history of very high cholesterol (ex. LDL >190 mg/dl)
- A family history with other features that suggest a possible hereditary cardiovascular condition.
Cancer Risk Assessment and Prevention
- A personal history of a less common cancer, regardless of age (ex. ovarian)
- A family history with cancer diagnoses at young ages
- A family history including less common cancers (ex. ovarian cancer)
- A family history with more diagnoses of cancer than one might usually expect, even if the diagnoses were at older ages.
- A personal history of cancer at a young age (<50yo)
In 2004, the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) published Practice Guidelines on referral indications for cancer predisposition assessment.
What If I’ve Already Had Genetic Testing?
If you’ve already had genetic testing done, a genetic counselor can help you to better understand your results in context, including potential medical management implications. A genetic counselor can also help you understand the implications of any genetic test results (positive or negative) for your family members.
How Can I Find a Genetic Counselor Near Me?
Look no further! Grey Genetics provides you with expert genetics consults wherever you are. Using telehealth communications, we bring genetic counseling to you in the comfort of your own home. Simply schedule a consult with one of our genetic counselors at your convenience. We can consult with you at times that are convenient for you and your families, including outside of normal business hours.