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Genetic counseling and testing is offered at the VCU PMDC.
What is genetic counseling?
Genetic counseling is the process of working with a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors work with individuals and families to provide specific information about inherited conditions (like Huntington disease), analyze inheritance patterns in families, and discuss each individual’s chance to inherit a condition.
A genetic counselor will also explore with you options for genetic testing, explain the results of any genetic testing you decide to have, and serves as an ongoing resource for support.
What is a genetic counselor?
A genetic counselor is a specially trained health professional with experience in medical genetics and counseling. Genetic counselors provide information and support to individuals who have a genetic condition or a family history of a genetic condition.
Genetic counselors can provide information about conditions, analyze inheritance patterns in families, discuss the chance to inherit a condition, and review available options with the family. Genetic counselors also serve as patient advocates, educators and resources for other health care professionals and for the general public. (Adapted from the National Society of Genetic Counselors)
What sort of qualifications does a genetic counselor have?
A genetic counselor is a health professional with specialized training in medical genetics and counseling. Most genetic counselors have a Master's degree in genetic counseling, although some have degrees in related fields, such as nursing or social work. Genetic counselors are certified through the American Board of Genetic Counseling and must participate in continuing education to maintain their certification.
What are some common reasons people speak with genetic counselors?
There are many reasons to consult with a genetic counselor, including:
- To determine the chance of having a genetic disease when a family history of a certain genetic health condition exists
- To determine the chance of having a genetic disease
- To learn the options to reduce the chance of a genetic disease when planning to have a baby
- To learn the chance of passing on a medical condition to children
- To discuss how to share information about a genetic condition with others
What happens when I see a genetic counselor?
Most genetic counseling is provided in-person to an individual, couple, or family, typically in a clinic or doctor’s office. Depending on the specific reason for your consultation, the genetic counselor may:
- Review your personal and family medical history
- Identify possible genetic risks and discuss inheritance patterns
- Review appropriate testing options
- Discuss prevention strategies, screening tools, and disease management
- Provide genetics-related information and reliable resources
- Provide supportive counseling to help you with topics that arose during the consultation.
In some cases you may speak with a genetic counselor once, or you may work your counselor over time. As questions about your genetic health arise, genetic counselors are available to help.
How can I get the most out of a genetic counseling appointment?
Being prepared will help you get the most out of your genetic counseling appointment. Here are some tips to prepare for your appointment:
- Ask your relatives about medical conditions in your family
- Gather any medical records related to your concerns
- Bring a list of written questions to your appointment
You may not be able to get all the details, but the more information you have, the more your genetic counselor can help.
How do I find a genetic counselor?
To find a genetic counselor in your area, ask your doctor for references or search the National Society of Genetic Counselors.