Frequently Asked Questions About Genetic Counseling
What are genetic professionals and what do they do?
Genetics professionals are health care professionals with specialized degrees
and experience in medical genetics and counseling. Genetics professionals include
geneticists, genetic counselors and genetics nurses.
What is genetic counseling and evaluation?
Genetic professionals work as members of health care teams providing information
and support to individuals or families who have genetic disorders or may be
at risk for inherited conditions. Genetic professionals:
- Assess the risk of a genetic disorder by researching a family's history
and evaluating medical records.
- Weigh the medical, social and ethical decisions surrounding genetic testing.
- Provide support and information to help a person make a decision about testing.
- Interpret the results of genetic tests and medical data.
- Provide counseling or refer individuals and families to support services.
- Serve as patient advocates.
- Explain possible treatments or preventive measures.
- Discuss reproductive options.
How do I find a genetic professional?
Your health care provider may refer you to a genetic professional. Universities
and medical centers also often have affiliated genetic professionals, or can
provide referrals to a genetic professional or genetics clinic.
As more has been learned about genetics, genetic professionals have grown more
specialized. For example, they may specialize in a particular disease (such
as cancer genetics), an age group (such as adolescents) or a type of counseling
(such as prenatal).
How do I decide whether I need to see a geneticist or other specialist?
Your health care provider may refer you to a geneticist - a medical doctor
or medical researcher - who specializes in your disease or disorder. A medical
geneticist has completed a fellowship or has other advanced training in medical
genetics. While a genetic counselor or genetic nurse may help you with testing
decisions and support issues, a medical geneticist will make the actual diagnosis
of a disease or condition. Many genetic diseases are so rare that only a geneticist
can provide the most complete and current information about your condition.
Along with a medical geneticist, you may also be referred to a physician who
is a specialist in the type of disorder you have. For example, if a genetic
test is positive for colon cancer, you might be referred to an oncologist. For
a diagnosis of Huntington disease, you may be referred to a neurologist.
These online resources can help you find a genetic professional in your community:
- ResourceLink [nsgc.org]
A database of genetics counseling services, searchable
by location, name, institution, type of practice or specialty. Hosted by the
National Society of Genetic Counselors.
- Genetic Centers, Clinics and Departments [kumc.edu]
A comprehensive resource
list for genetic counseling, including links to genetic centers and clinics,
associations, and university genetics departments. Hosted by the University
of Kansas Medical Center.
- GeneClinics [geneclinics.org]
A searchable directory of international genetics
and prenatal diagnosis clinics.
Last Reviewed: March 28, 2008