Genetic counselling services
Genetic counselling is the process through which knowledge about the genetic aspects of illnesses is shared by trained professionals with those who are at an increased risk or either having a heritable disorder or of passing it on to their unborn offspring. A genetic counsellor provides information on the inheritance of illnesses and their recurrence risks; addresses the concerns of patients, their families, and their health care providers; and supports patients and their families dealing with these illnesses . The Heredity Clinic was the first genetic counselling service centre established in 1940 at the University of Michigan, USA. Since then the many such centres have been opened around the world.
Over the years, the role of a genetic counsellor has evolved from simply drawing pedigrees in an attempt to help clarify the genetic components of diseases and birth defects, to the present non-directive approach, requiring counsellors to provide information and feedback to patients on the inheritance or risk of inheriting illness. With the mapping of the human genome project in 2001 the role of genetic counselling has increased further both in scope and importance.
Individuals who come to see genetic counsellors may have a disorder themselves and be concerned about their family and vice versa, couples with an affected child who wish to plan another pregnancy, couples who are planning their first pregnancy and wish to understand the child’s disease susceptibility of their future child as well as couples who are planning a pregnancy late in life and want to assess any potential risks. Genetic counselling service may be useful at all stages of development, for instance babies undergoing screening, teenagers being tested for Thalassemia genes or assessing the genetic predisposition of adults as they enter mid-life to accommodate for lifestyle changes.
Genetic counsellors now work in many capacities besides the traditional setting of the hospital. They work in the fields of education, administration, policy-making, as well as for biotechnology companies as representatives. Many also work shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists and with medical doctors in interpreting test results.
Resource and technological advancements have enabled genetic counselling to play a major role in health care of many developed countries and presently its potential is being realized in the less developed countries. But this is still a burgeoning field; it is limited in developing countries, where the duties of counsellors are still being fulfilled by other healthcare professionals without formal specialization.
More information on genetic counselling
National Society of Genetic Counselors (USA / International)
Canadian Association of Genetic Counselors
Cancer Genetic Services Directory (National Cancer Institute)
March of Dimes
- Office of Cancer Genomics (National Cancer Institute, USA)
- American Board of Genetic Counseling (USA)
- Genetic Counseling Resources (USA)
- National Society of Genetic Counsellors (USA)
- "Genetic Counseling and Testing in Families With Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer." Archives of Internal Medicine. Volume 163: 573-582. 2003.
- "Antenatal Screening for Down's Syndrome with the Quadruple Test." The Lancet. Volume 361: 835-836.
- "Genetic Counselling for Haemophilia." Treatment of Hemophilia. May 2002. No. 25. World Federation of Hemophilia.
- "Genetic Counseling Gone Awry: Miscommunication Between Prenatal Genetic Service Providers and Mexican-origin Clients." Social Science and Medicine. May 2003. Volume 56. Issue 9. Pages 1933-1946.
- "A 'Normal' in Genetics Tests can Bring New Problems" by Carey Goldberg. Boston Globe. 17 February 2002. Page A1.
- "Science Peers Behind Veil of the Unborn; Today's Testing Carries Power and Responsibility" by Elizabeth Weise. USA Today. 2003.