On November 4th, 2021 the National Society of Genetic Counselors and the international genetic counseling community will celebrate Genetic Counselor Awareness Day. This is a day dedicated to raising awareness within our communities about the important and supportive role genetic counselors can play as part of a healthcare team. Some readers may have met with a genetic counselor, or may know somebody who has, while others may have never heard of this profession. In a world where personalized medicine is ever-growing, genetic testing may come up in a variety of healthcare settings, or even in ads on your TV or on the shelves of your local Target. Luckily, there are over 5,000 certified genetic counselors practicing in the United States today whose goal is to help patients navigate the rapidly changing world of genetics.
One reason people may meet with a genetic counselor is if they have experienced cancer, either themselves or through a family member. It is estimated that approximately 10% of cancers are caused by an inherited genetic condition. For those diagnosed with cancer, learning about a hereditary cause for their cancer may help them and their care team make decisions about surgery and/or treatment. For those with a family history of cancer, learning about a hereditary susceptibility to cancer may lead to early detection of cancer or preventative care. Genetic counselors also offer guidance to patients and their families on common concerns about genetic testing including, cost, privacy of data, insurance discrimination, and selection of the most appropriate test.
When you meet with a genetic counselor, your entire family is considered. Genetic counselors serve as advocates not only to the person they are meeting with, but also for the entire family- to ensure children, brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, and more can all benefit from genetic testing. Genetic counselors can provide emotional support, discuss how to communicate difficult findings to family members, and also provide recommendations for community support services.
Swedish Cancer Institute has four licensed and certified genetic counselors who specialize in hereditary conditions related to cancer risk. They meet with individuals with a diagnosis of cancer, currently or in the past, or with individuals who have a concerning family history of cancer. Consultations are offered in-person at the True Family Women’s Cancer Center in First Hill, the Swedish Edmonds campus, and the Swedish Issaquah campus. Consultations are also available virtually via Zoom. If you would like to learn more about a genetic counseling consultation at SCI’s Hereditary Cancer Clinic, a short, informational video can be found on our website.
In celebrating Genetic Counselor Awareness Day, we also want to recognize and celebrate the nine genetic counselors working at Swedish’s Maternal and Fetal Care Center, specializing in prenatal genetic testing options.
Want more information on the genetic counseling profession? Visit: AboutGeneticCounselors.org