What do Genetic Counselors Do? (Original)

My name is Jessica Profato-Partlow. I am a relatively new member of the Ambry Genetics family, and very excited to be a part of Hereditarycancer.com. As a clinical genetic counselor prior to joining Ambry, I spent several years providing hereditary cancer genetic counseling services to many families at a busy cancer hospital. In that setting, I learned how important it is for people with cancer and their family members to have reliable and helpful information at their fingertips, as they walk through their cancer journeys. I hope to be able to share my knowledge with more people through Hereditarycancer.com and this "BRCA and Beyond" blog.

Whenever I meet new people, they often ask me, "What do you do for a living?" When I tell them I am a genetic counselor, many are unsure what that even means - some are even afraid to ask. So since we are just meeting as well, I want to explain that to you here. I'll share about what genetic counselors can do for you, and what you and your loved ones might be able to expect when meeting with one (or possibly what you have already experienced).

One of the key parts of meeting with a genetic counselor is discussing your family history. Usually prior to someone having genetic testing, your genetic counselor will take a close look at your family history, to assess if there might be a hereditary cancer condition causing an increased risk for cancer in the family. This can help us determine if testing would be helpful for someone to consider, since not everyone needs genetic testing.

A big part of our job as genetic counselors is to explain the genetic information and testing options to you if you are considering testing, so you can understand and use the information to benefit your care and family. Once genetic testing is completed, your genetic counselor will discuss your results with you, and how they impact you and your family.

If your test results find something like a gene mutation, your genetic counselor will help you to understand the medical recommendations and help make sure you are referred to other medical professionals (like surgeons and other doctors who specialize in high-risk cancer screening) . Also, your genetic counselor will help you understand which family members might have the same hereditary risk for cancer, so that they can be screened and discuss genetic testing.

In addition to all of the medical and genetic information, your genetic counselor can also provide you with support and connect you to further resources, since having genetic testing and finding out you have hereditary cancer may be emotionally difficult.

Overall, genetic counselors can be looked at as a resource to make sure the right people are offered the right genetic testing, to learn about how the genetic test results may impact medical care, and to offer support through the medical and emotional aspects of being diagnosed with hereditary cancer.

For more information about genetic counselors in the U.S. or Canada, you can go to the National Society of Genetic Counselors' website (www.NSGC.org) or Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors' website (www.cagc-accg.ca). You can also use the "Find a Genetic Counselor" and "Search for a Genetics Clinic" link through these sites to find a genetic counselor near you or your family members.



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