Genetic counselors are health care professionals who specialize in both understanding genetics and implementing professional counseling services. The importance of these providers is increasing as we move forward in the age of precision medicine.

Though the concept may seem new to some, genetic counseling has long been utilized in the field of public health. Many are familiar with its applications pertaining to newborn screening, maternal and child health issues.

Today, there are many more types of genetics based medical procedures. Genetic counselors are needed to guide individuals with familial tendencies toward contracting particular medical conditions in making informed health care decisions. These counselors help people understand how innovative prevention and treatment methods may improve or prolong their lives or the lives of family members.

Rapid advances in gene based therapies continue to create new opportunities for genetic counselors. Let’s take a look at the increasing importance of genetic counseling in clinical practice in this era of precision medicine. 

The Role of the Genetic Counselor

Most professional genetic counselors work in clinics or hospitals, in cooperation with other professionals like doctors, obstetricians, oncologists. Their training in both genetics and counseling makes them highly suited to serve patients.

Members of the profession typically specialize in a particular aspect of genetic study. They work in a variety of settings and provide different services. Some of the approximately 5,000 certified genetic counselors work in research. 

Additional roles for genetic counselors are continually being created, throughout the health care system.  They even collaborate with pharmacy professionals.  

What Precisely is Precision Medicine?

 Precision medicine is often deemed the future of health care.   The National Cancer Institute defines precision medicine as:

“. . . an approach to patient care that allows doctors to select treatments that are most likely to help patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease”. 

Our genetic makeup has some degree of effect upon every aspect of our growth, development, susceptibility to disease and injury. Applications of precision medicine expand along with the ever-growing body of knowledge regarding how genetics and other factors affect particular health conditions.

Examination of both environmental and genetic factors can bring valuable insight regarding the best forms of treatment for each individual. The role of the genetic counselor is to help patients sort through the findings of genetic testing as they pertain to disease prevention and treatment.

Genetic Counselors, Precision Medicine and Cancer Treatment

Some types of cancer have a proven genetic link. If you have had two or more types of cancer, have several family members who have had cancer, or if you have been diagnosed with cancer at a very young, consultation with a genetic counselor may be recommended.

Genetic counselors who specialize in cancer treatment can evaluate your family health history, identify risks for inheritable forms of cancer. They can recommend and interpret the results of genetic tests, discuss prevention options for at risk individuals, management and treatment alternatives for individuals currently suffering from symptoms of the disease.

Genetic Counselors Support Various Precision Medicine Services

From preconception to prenatal to pediatrics, genetic counselors work with precision medicine specialists to support the health of children. This combination of services is instrumental for patients of all ages suffering from cardiovascular and neurological conditions with genetic components also. Expanding knowledge of and genetically based treatment concepts for an ever-increasing number of health concerns makes keeping up with the demand for genetic counselors a challenge.

New service delivery models, like the increasing utilization of telehealth technology allow genetic counselors and precision medicine specialist to reach a growing number of in-need individuals, regardless of geographic location.

Rapid advances in gene based therapies in this age of precision medicine continue to create new opportunities for genetic counselors. Want more information about how genetic counseling and precision medicine may help you and your family live healthier, longer lives?  Contact us.