A genetic counsellor (GC) is a healthcare professional with education and training in medical genetics and genetic counselling. GCs are allied health professionals who work to improve the health/and wellbeing of people with or at risk of genetic conditions. They do this across all areas of health, in clinical care, research, academia, education, policy, industry and pathology. The role of a GC is to interpret the cancer risk based on an individual’s personal or family history. They help making an informed decision about an individual’s options for genetic testing. GCs communicate the implications of genetic test results for individuals and their family members. They work with doctors to help make appropriate recommendations regarding options for ongoing surveillance and management. In addition, GCs assist with family communication and provide links for valuable support services such as clinical psychology or cancer support groups.
Genetic counselling is a communication process, which aims to help individuals, couples and families understand and adapt to the medical, psychological, familial and reproductive implications of the genetic contribution to specific health conditions.
Genetic testing does not always provide a yes or no / black and white answer, and it is important that patients understand these limitations as well as other potential implications prior to proceeding. The session provides an opportunity for the patient to raise concerns, ask questions, plan and prepare for result, and organise relevant management options.
The process is a two-way flow of information aimed at promoting informed decision making. It helps GCs to tailor the testing and information for the individual and their family.