Is genetic counseling right for you? Making informed decisions for your health and future

Navigating Healthcare

by Olivia Mays, MS

Jul 28, 2023

Are you considering genetic testing or genetic counseling? While looking into genetics can’t guarantee answers to all our health questions, it’s a useful tool that can help arm you with information to consider when making health-related decisions.

Meeting with a genetic counselor is a great next step to take. Before undergoing genetic testing, a counselor can help you understand what to expect from the process and whether genetic testing is right for you. After testing, they can help you make sense of the results and understand what they mean for you.

Here’s what to expect if you meet with a genetic counselor.

What does a genetic counselor do?

Genetic counselors are specially trained genetics providers that can be an integral part of your healthcare team. People are often referred to a genetic counselor before having genetic testing, and/or after having genetic testing.

Genetic counselors can provide an evaluation and risk assessment for an inherited condition and provide helpful information and guidance on your personal genetic information. You may find genetic counselors in many different specialties, including oncology, pediatrics, cardiology, prenatal and more.

When to consider genetic counseling

Genetic counseling may be helpful for someone who is likely to have a hereditary condition based on their medical history or family history, or if genetic test results could have an impact on their healthcare management. Genetic counseling may also be helpful for someone who has questions or concerns about genetic testing.

If you’ve already had genetic testing and would like help interpreting the test results, a genetic counselor can provide more clarity on what your results mean for you and your family.

What to expect when you see a genetic counselor

It’s normal to wonder what to expect if you do meet with a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors will evaluate your medical history and family history, as well as provide a risk assessment of any hereditary disease. They will help you understand how likely it is that you or your family has an inherited condition. The genetic counselor will also talk to you about the benefits and limitations of genetic testing, what the options are, and other topics such as insurance coverage and protections. They will help to ensure you understand the information necessary to make an informed decision about genetic testing.

Once you have your test results, a genetic counselor will guide you through what the results mean and what the next steps are. They can provide support in coping with test results and discussing the results with family.

Ready to meet with a genetic counselor?

When meeting with a genetic counselor, you may want to prepare some questions ahead of time. Some people ask for more information about genes and how they’re inherited, what genetic testing is looking for and what the process is like, how much it will cost, or what it will mean for their family—no question is off limits. This is your time to ask any questions on your mind to make sure you feel confident in your health moving forward.

If you’re interested in meeting with a genetic counselor, ask your healthcare provider for a referral. They can connect you with a genetic counselor in your area.

Learn more about genetic counseling today.

About the Author

Olivia Mays is a genetic counselor at the Baylor Breast Institute at Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health, in Dallas.

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