Why a Genetic Counselor Should Be a Part of Your Healthcare Team

Curious about how a genetic counselor could inform and enhance your healthcare? We sat down with genetic counselor Carey McDougall to find out.

Having a family medical history with a disease like cancer, heart condition or Alzheimer’s disease can bring on anxieties and worries about your future or about passing them along to your children. Seeing a genetic counselor can offer you the peace of mind and power of knowledge, as well as make sure your healthcare is catered to your unique needs and concerns.

We sat down with  Carey McDougall, a board-certified licensed cancer genetic counselor at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center—Washington Township, to learn more about how genetic counseling can inform and enhance your healthcare.

Can you tell us about what exactly is a genetic counselor?
Genetic counselors have advanced education in human genetics and counseling with training to interpret genetic tests in order to guide and support patients seeking more information about things like; how inherited diseases and conditions might affect them or their families, how family and medical histories may impact the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence and which gene tests may or may not be right for them, as well as the benefits, limitations, and implications of those tests.

Can anyone see a genetic counselor?
You could be referred to see a genetic counselor from one of your doctors or nurses, or you may make an appointment yourself to understand your individual risk for developing certain diseases.

You specialize in cancer counseling, what other kinds of genetic counselors exist?
Genetic counselors work in many areas of healthcare including oncology, prenatal, pediatrics, neurology, cardiology and many more.

What do you do as a cancer genetic counselor?
I help patients make the most informed choices or decisions for their healthcare through careful review of a patient’s medical history, family history, and other risk factors.

What are some common misconceptions about genetic counseling?
One of the most common misconceptions I see is that some people think if you see a genetic counselor, you have to have genetic testing. Genetic counseling is not gene testing!

However, it is a process of determining your individual risk for developing hereditary cancer and the risk for your children and extended family. A cancer genetic counselor will discuss appropriate genetic testing options, as well as, management and screening options that are available for at-risk individuals.

Through counseling, we provide you with information to help you make the best decision for you.

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