Genetic counselors are like a personal guide for you and your family as you have genetic testing. Your genetic counselor will work with you and your doctor, help answer questions and explain hard information, and help you find ways to pay for tests.
Genetic counselors are usually part of a team and work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and laboratories (labs). They have special training to help them understand the results of your genetic tests and will explain the results in a way that is easy to understand, and recommend what to do next with your doctor. They meet with you and your family to learn more about your medical issues and provide information, support, and guidance to people who:
- May have a genetic disease (a medical condition caused by changes to your genes)
- May be at risk for a genetic disease
- Are pregnant and want to understand the risk of a genetic disease for their unborn child
Genetic counselors can work with your health insurance company to help you find ways to pay for genetic tests. They can also help you get connected to a medical specialist or other people who have the same genetic condition.
When should I see a genetic counselor?
Your doctor may refer you to meet with a genetic counselor if there are certain conditions that run in your family. You can meet with a genetic counselor either before or after genetic testing. They can act like a personal guide for you to help answer questions because of their training in genetics and counseling (providing guidance and support to patients). Meeting with a genetic counselor can be helpful if:
- You are worried about conditions that run in your family such as cancer or heart disease
- There is a history of children born with a disability in your family
- You want to understand the chance of passing on certain genetic conditions to your children
- You want to know if genetic testing is right for you
- You want to understand your genetic test results
How will a genetic counselor help me?
Genetic counselors can help you in many ways – whether you are planning on having a baby, or looking for specific answers based on your family history. For example:
- Prenatal genetic counselors work with mothers and their partners before their baby is born. They help pregnant families understand genetic screenings (tests), ultrasound results, and the chances of passing on genetic conditions to their children.
- Pediatric genetic counselors help families who have a child who may have a genetic condition.
- Cancer genetic counselors help you understand the risk of certain hereditary (passed down through your family) cancers such as breast cancer.
- Genetic counselors also work with families that have heart disease, neurological conditions, and some blood conditions.
For more information on where to find a genetic counselor, talk to your doctor or contact Global Genes Patient Services (https://globalgenes.org/rare-concierge/) for additional resources. Some genetic counselors may even be able to see you through phone/video appointments.
Learning about your family’s medical history is important. Get tips on how to start a conversation with your family, a list of questions to ask, and additional information about why learning about your family health history is important.