Genetic counselors are health professionals who are trained to help families understand genetic disorders and to provide information and support to those families. They may also serve as patient advocates by referring individuals or families to local services that can be of assistance.
Genetic research is a powerful tool for treating medical conditions, but it is still a new tool. Many people whose families are affected by genetics disorders don't understand how it will affect their lives. Even genetic researchers and doctors don't fully understand how genes cause all genetic disorders. Genetic counselors work with doctors and families to help families get the information they need to understand the disorder.
Questions about genetic disorders
"My doctor told me that I will have a blood test in my second trimester of pregnancy that can detect if my baby has problems. This test is called maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein screening. What is maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein screening? What can it tell me?"
"My son has a rare genetic disorder. Do you know any other patients with this disorder that I could talk to?"
"My father died last spring from Huntington's disease. My fathers sister and mother also had this disease, and my doctor told me that there is a gene test available that can tell me whether or not I will develop Huntington's disease. The thing is, I dont know if I want to know and Im worried about what my insurance company will do if they learn that I do carry the gene."
"Many of my family members have had cancer and I am worried about getting cancer myself. Is the cancer in my family inherited? What are my chances of getting cancer and what types of screening should I do?"
Locating a Genetic Counselor
- The National Society of Genetic Counselors
- March of Dimes "genetic resource directory" can help locate individuals and programs that can act as resources and regional sites for genetic evaluation, screening, diagnosis, treatment, management, and/or counseling.
- The National Cancer Institute provides a search by last name, location, and cancer/genetic disorder.
In the United States, Canada, Australia, Puerto Rico, Denmark, Brazil, Israel, England, Singapore: The National Society of Genetic Counselors
Please contact the genetic society for your area and ask for their assistance in locating a genetic counselor or medical geneticist. Some international genetic societies have websites listed on this page: Genetics Societies & Associations. Or try using this list: http://www.faseb.org/genetics/
Careers in Genetic Counseling:
The National Society of Genetic Counselors has information on training programs, certification, demographics, career opportunities, and populations served.