What to Expect When Working with a JScreen Genetic Counselor
“Thank you for taking the time to speak with us tonight,” said my patient’s husband, “There is no way we would have understood these results had you simply emailed them to us.”
Statements like this make it all worth it. Yesterday was a draining day, working the night shift after a long day of little league practices, soccer carpools, and a few too many coffees. But when I sat down to counsel my patient and her husband about her increased cancer risks due to a hereditary mutation in a cancer gene, I was able to remove my “mom” hat and play the role of genetic counselor.
We discussed her risks for breast and colon cancer, the steps she could take to get ahead of those risks, which relatives to inform and how to get them tested, and some resources for her to explore. The couple asked some great questions along the way and by the time our conversation ended, both parties felt empowered. The energy I had lost throughout the day had come back and I felt that I had provided this couple with information they can use to make important choices about themselves and their family. The husband’s closing remarks supported the work us genetic counselors do and reminded me of how important a personalized conversation can be.
What is genetic counseling?
Genetic counseling is a service that provides you with important information about how genetic conditions might affect you or your family. There are a number of reasons you might seek genetic counseling in which a genetic counselor can help you determine whether a genetic test may be right for you or to help you better understand the results of a genetic test.
What does a genetic counselor do?
A genetic counselor is a health professional with a Masters degree and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. These healthcare professionals support patients through the genetic testing experience. Genetic counselors assess your risk for inherited diseases and conditions by taking medical and family histories, then educating you about your risks as well as your testing and management options.
When would I consider working with a genetic counselor?
Your DNA holds important information about your health. Genetic testing provides visibility into your genetic makeup and can be a powerful tool in determining your risk of developing certain conditions.
There are various stages in life in which genetic counseling might be recommended, including:
- When you are planning for a pregnancy to identify your carrier status and learn about potential risks of certain hereditary diseases and conditions that may be passed on to your baby.
- During pregnancy to determine any potential conditions that may affect your little one during infancy or early childhood.
- For regular health management to identify changes within your genes that put you at a higher risk for certain conditions, including cancer.
Why is working with a genetic counselor important when getting screened?
Genetic testing is a meaningful step in being proactive about your health and your family’s health. But, it can also be a misunderstood one. Genetic counselors are an important source of educational and emotional support for patients throughout the genetic testing process.
A genetic counselor supports your experience by:
- Understanding your medical and family history to determine what genetic test may be right for you.
- Providing clarity about genetic testing by responding to any questions or concerns you may have prior to testing.
- Meeting with you to review your genetic test results to talk about your potential risks and understanding what management options are available.
- Discussing how your results may affect other family members.
- Ensuring you have the support you need so you can have the best possible genetic testing experience.
What can I expect when working with a JScreen genetic counselor?
JScreen offers two types of genetic screening. Our CancerGEN test screens for 63 cancer-predisposition genes that are associated with over 40 types of cancer. Our ReproGEN test screens singles and couples for over 200 conditions that could affect their offspring.
Every time someone registers for either test, one of our genetic counselors reviews their case to ensure that the test they are seeking is appropriate and reaches out with any questions or concerns.
Once the results are complete, a genetic counselor will evaluate them in the context of the patients’ personal and family histories and provide the results by phone or Zoom. These genetic counseling sessions typically take between 30 and 45 minutes, as we take the time to explain what the results mean, recommendations and options for follow-up, and how other family members may be affected as well. For genetic concerns beyond JScreen’s scope, we refer out to other, more appropriate resources.
I have heard many upsetting stories of people who misinterpreted their genetic results and took action based on misinformation. This is exactly why genetic counselors exist. We are here for you, to provide education and emotional support along the way. We want to make sure you feel empowered and well-informed as you plan for your future.