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About Genetic Counselors

Who Are Genetic Counselors?

  • Genetic counselors are not doctors, but they are an important part of your healthcare team.
  • Genetic counselors can meet with individuals or families before or after genetic testing.
  • Genetic counselors are specialized in prenatal, pediatric, oncology, neurology, ophthalmology, psychiatry, and many other areas.
  • Many genetic counselors are able to see patients via telehealth options.
  • In addition to different specialty areas, genetic counselors can have roles outside of seeing patients. Genetic counselors can work in research, education, industry, marketing, and many other roles across the healthcare and genetics fields.

Many things about you are partly or entirely determined by your DNA, and more specifically by tiny variations in sections of your DNA called genes, which you inherited from your parents. Your genes can also increase your risk of developing certain health conditions, including certain types of cancer or heart disease. Genetics is the study of these genes and of your heredity.

Genetic counselors have advanced training in medical genetics and counseling to guide and support patients seeking more information about how inherited diseases and conditions might affect them or their families, and to interpret genetic test results based on your personal and family history.

You may be referred to a genetic counselor by a doctor (such as an obstetrician, oncologist or medical geneticist) to discuss your family history and genetic risks, or before or after having genetic testing. While genetic counselors are not medical doctors, they are part of your healthcare team and work with you and your doctor to help you understand:

  • Your genetic risks based on your family history
  • Your genetic risks for certain diseases or cancer
  • Whether genetic testing might be right for you
  • What the results of genetic tests may mean for you and your family

With expertise in counseling, genetic counselors can also provide emotional support as you make decisions and empower you with information for your overall healthcare.

More Information About Genetic Counselors

For more information about becoming a genetic counselor, including why you might see a genetic counselor, preparing for an appointment and more, please visit NSGC's patient-focused site here.

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