Genetic Counselling is the process by which patients, along with their families who have a history of some inherited or pre-disposed illness, are advised about the risks, consequences and the probability of any illness occurring in the future.
Our genetic counsellors have a complete understanding of diseases and are also trained in psychology. They are also excellent communicators, who have the capacity to educate individuals undergoing testing.
WHY DO WE NEED GENETIC COUNSELLING?
In recent times, as technology provides stronger insights into the treatment of diseases, we are learning about the origins of chronic diseases better. The cause of chronic illness could either be metabolic or genetic. While we cannot definitively attribute the cause to either one or the other, recent research indicates that the causes of cancer could be genetic.
This does not mean that you directly inherit cancer from your parents, but it indicates that you may need to understand more about your genetic predisposition to certain diseases including cancer.
It is estimated that 5-10% of cancers have a genetic predisposition. The main cancers with a strong genetic predisposition are cancer of the breast, ovaries, uterus, prostate, and colon and/or rectum (colorectal cancer). Of these, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. So, it is highly important to figure out one’s genetic predisposition. If you are concerned that you or any family member of yours might get cancer owing to family history, it is important to go for a session on genetic counselling to understand the risk better.
You can take better control of your health with the support of genetic counselling.
HOW DOES GENETIC COUNSELLING HELP?
Genetic Counselling happens before and after genetic testing.The premise of genetic testing is that if you monitor an individual’s genes, you may be able to assess that individual’s risk of certain diseases or illnesses. This is not restricted to cancer, it could be used to determine the genetic predisposition to any chronic illness.
For instance, genetic testing helps answer questions like this – both my parents have diabetes; what are the chances of me being a diabetic too?
In the process of genetic testing, blood or tissue samples from the individual are taken for analysis, the results of which provide further information. Genetic counselling creates awareness of genetic risks and helps in early intervention of a chronic health condition. Sometimes, this helps curtail a disease before it strikes. In effect, it empowers you to make the right decisions regarding your health.
GENETIC COUNSELLING PROCESS
Genetic testing is a process where blood or tissue samples from the individual are taken and analysed, to understand the predisposition to certain diseases. Genetic counselling is the means of managing the entire process of testing by talking, communicating and evaluating options.
Genetic testing is never done standalone. Pre-test and post-test counselling are mandatory. As part of genetic counselling, individuals are advised about risks, consequences, and probability of illness occurring in the future.
Counselling plays a key role pre and post-testing, since genetic tests are sometimes deterministic and sometimes, they are only predictive. So, our genetic counsellors will help individuals decide what future course to follow with the test results. A genetic counsellor plays a pivotal role in the genetic counselling process.
Sometimes, counselling may not even result in testing. So, counselling helps individuals make sense of the results, and the course to follow based on the results. At times, this could also lead to extreme actions.
BENEFITS OF SEEKING A GENETIC COUNSELLOR
- Provides expert genetic counselling services to help families understand their history of chronic diseases, susceptibility, and resources to curtail it before it strikes
- Helps the doctor recommend appropriate genetic tests, and supports with the appropriate disease stage and prognosis
- Helps assess the genetic risk of individuals in a family to take appropriate preventive measures to counter the disease
In India, since genetic testing is not mandatory, a lot of individuals avoid taking it up. However, counselling can help to work with people to help them take the step towards taking up a genetic test. The advantages of genetic counselling far outweigh the disadvantages. It helps you take a proactive step in assessing your risk of getting a certain disease.
Genetic counselling is just a discussion to understand one’s genes. A pedigree analysis helps assess whether you or your family members are at risk. This scientifically executed methodology helps empower you and make the right decisions for yourself and your family.