Knowing where we came from is important. Knowing where we came from in terms of our genetics and family medical history is also important. Our family health history can tell us a lot about ourselves both mentally and physically. It can also tell us about a genetic disorder that we could possibly pass down to our offspring. After undergoing genetic testing, meeting with a certified genetic counselor and receiving genetic counseling is the first step towards understanding yourself as well as your family.
What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing refers to a medical test done by a blood or saliva sample that is meant to provide information on an individual’s DNA. Individuals can receive results about their genetic information in as little as three weeks. The testing reveals changes or mutations in DNA that can cause disease or illness. For example, genetic resting results may show that an individual carries a specific cancer gene or another genetic condition.
What is Genetic Counseling?
Genetic counseling refers to health care professionals giving advice and insight into someone’s results from genetic testing. This is often also compiled with known family health history and accessible medical records. All of this genetic information can be quite overwhelming and hard to understand but a genetic counselor can help make sense of it all in simpler terms.
As mentioned, through genetic testing, individuals often learn of individual or family risk from genetic conditions. Most people’s results show that they carry at least one gene that sounds troubling. This may directly affect them or it may affect a possible future child such as a disease, illness, or a birth defect.
Regardless, it can be very difficult to learn these things about ourselves and that is precisely why genetic counselors are so crucial. Meeting with a certified genetic counselor is the best way to understand genetic tests.
Reasons As To Why People Receive Genetic Counseling
Genetic counseling is a relatively new concept that has already become a very important specialization in both the counseling and medical fields. The more humans understand genetic conditions and what causes them to manifest, the more access people will have in understanding and determining their own genetic future. Pregnant women and their partners, or partners wanting to start a family, commonly receive genetic counseling but there are many other reasons as to why somebody would want to speak with a genetic counselor. The following are some of the key reasons why people choose to receive genetic counseling and how it can help them…
To Inform Themselves
People go to genetic counselors to inform themselves about the genetic conditions they have or are at risk for. They want to know more so they can make the best decisions regarding their health and the health of their families. They may want to know more about exactly how testing is done and have genetic test results explained to them. They will want to know about symptoms and treatment options. A genetic counselor can answer these questions. They can discuss how certain genes are passed down and why they make people more susceptible to certain diseases and conditions. They can provide information about screenings, treatment options, and prevention for a wide variety of conditions, from cancer to Huntington’s Disease.
To Get Advice
People receive genetic counseling to get advice. They have often just learned about a genetic condition they have and may be upset or confused. They may be unsure what to do and are seeking the advice of a professional knowledgeable about genetics and genetic conditions. This is why genetic counselors must be prepared to give professional advice to their clients when asked for it. This advice must come from reading the individual people involved and the scientific knowledge of what they are facing. Advice can include what tests to take, what procedures to have, what lifestyles to live and what medications may be most effective for their individual condition, as reported by PBS.
To Receive Comfort
Like most counselors, genetic counselors comfort people in their grief when necessary. They must be able to comfort people who have just learned potentially devastating facts about their lives. For example, a mother may have lost a child due to a genetic disorder and knows she cannot have another baby without the same risk. Someone may have learned they have cancer at a very young age due to genetic reasons. This is why genetic counselors must be extremely empathetic and kind in addition to being scientifically knowledgeable. Genetic counselors may need to refer patients to counselors of other specialties, such as depression or marriage, if specialty help is needed.
To Understand The Risks To Their Children
Most people dream of having children someday. Unfortunately, many genetic conditions can destroy that dream or at least make people strongly question it. Even if the parents do not have the condition, it may be a near certainty that they will pass it on to their children. Parents in this situation may choose to adopt and forgo having their own children at all. They may even need to decide whether to continue with a marriage if children are no longer an option and one spouse wants children that badly. In a worst-case scenario, the parents may already be pregnant and the baby may have been diagnosed with a genetic condition, leaving them to decide whether they should carry on with the pregnancy or not.
What Are Some Common Conditions Tested for in Genetic Counseling?
Health professionals may have different opinions on some things, but when it comes to genetic testing, it’s pretty cut and dry. While many genetic testing kits determine carrier status for over 100 possible diseases and conditions, there are five conditions that many genetic counselors recommend testing for no matter what. These include…
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Tay-Sachs and Ashkenazi Disorders
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
Are You Interested in Receiving Genetic Counseling?
There are many reasons people may seek the advice and aid of a genetic counselor. Genetic counseling is undeniably a needed and popular service provided to modern patients. If you are interested in receiving genetic counseling services or a healthcare professional looking to enter a new field, you can search the directory over at the National Society of Genetic Counselors.