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What is the purpose of genetic counseling?

Genetic counseling is appropriate if you have concerns about your likelihood of being affected by a genetic disorder or about your passing a genetic disorder on to your children. Screening tests are available for some genetic diseases and may be recommended depending on your history. Genetic counseling is especially useful prior to becoming pregnant.
David A. Fishman, MD
Gynecologic Oncology
The purpose of genetic counseling is to inform at-risk individuals about the relevant genetic, biological and environmental risk factors related to the individual's inherited syndrome or cancer. Genetic counseling involves pre-test and post-test counseling. Pre-test counseling focuses on informed consent. An individual is educated on why the test is being offered and is informed on the possible outcomes and accuracy of a test. Post-test counseling involves the disclosure of test results, a discussion of the significance of the results, and follow-up plans for the patient.

Genetic testing should be performed by a genetic counselor, with specialized education, training and experience in medical genetics and counseling. It is the job of a genetic counselor to obtain and assess relevant information concerning an individual's risk and to provide information and support to families and individuals who may be at increased risk for a variety of inherited predispositions. A genetic counselor should be able to explain how family history and laboratory testing provide an adjusted risk for developing cancer and provide a clear explanation of the risk for cancer development, along with the preventative, screening and diagnostic processes that are available to the patient based on the adjusted risk.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.