November 9 is Genetic Counselor Awareness Day!
Thursday, the 9th of November marks the seventh annual Genetic Counselor Awareness day, first introduced and sponsored by the National Society of Genetic Counselors (USA) in 2016. It is a day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness of the important role genetic counselors play in healthcare communities across the globe.
Honoring this day, as the genetic counselors of the Department of Clinical Genetics and Genomics at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING), we would like to take the opportunity to talk about our profession here in Cyprus. Our department has been offering specialized care in medical genetics including diagnostics (clinical evaluation and genetic testing), management and genetic counseling for individuals and/or families affected by, or at risk of, disorders with possible genetic etiology in Cyprus for almost three decades. Since the department’s establishment in 1994, trained genetic counselors have been an integral part of the clinical genetics team making genetic counseling more readily available for a wide range of genetic disorders in Cyprus, almost a decade earlier than most other countries across the region.
Today genetics has become part of routine health care practice in various medical specialties. New genetic advances and related technology are much more rapidly being translated into patient and community health care. The need for accurate communication of complex genetic information and advocacy of ethical utilization of new genetic technology including genetic testing in healthcare has never been so transparent and loud as it has been in the last decade. Now, patients and/or healthcare professionals are more actively seeking genetic counselors, giving the impression genetic counseling is a novel specialty whereas the profession has its roots dating back to more than sixty years. While the need for genetic counseling is being voiced to ‘interpret’ the complex language of DNA, a genetic counselor’s roles are not limited to being merely described as a translator of a language only a few may speak. On any given day, a genetic counselor can take on many different roles! We can be a patient advocate, academic researcher, educator, scientist, legislation/policy-maker, cheerleader and team player – these are just a few examples from a long list! We can have many different roles to provide tailored care, education and support to our patients, families and the wider community. Our profession and work force is evolving constantly and as we have always done, we strive to increase awareness about who we are and what we do as genetic counselors.
So, let us talk more about genetic counselors, let us talk about US today and tell you how we can be of help to you!
Who Are Genetic Counselors?
We are healthcare professionals with specialized training and expertise in human genetics and counseling. Genetic counselors work in close collaboration with patients/families, who seek information about inherited conditions affecting them and/or their families, as part of their multidisciplinary healthcare team.
What Does a Genetic Counselor Do?
• Provide information about genetics, inheritance, and specific genetic conditions
• Discuss the benefits, risks, and limitations of genetic testing, prior to testing
• Interpret genetic testing results and help patients make decisions using those results and other important information
• Provide support to patients, their families, and their community
• Provide support to physicians to asses and identify patients and/or families at risk of hereditary and/or genetic conditions
How can a genetic counsellor help me?
Here are some questions for you to consider whether you could benefit from seeing a genetic counselor.
• Do you have questions about a genetic condition that runs in your family?
• Are you worried about a genetic health condition and haven't had all of your questions answered?
• Are you considering genetic testing, but aren't sure what to do?
• Do you have difficulty talking about a genetic condition with your family members?
• Are you concerned or confused about how a genetic condition in you or your family members could impact your children or future children?
• Have you been told you may have a genetic condition, and aren't sure what questions to ask?
If any of these questions apply to you or your family, you may speak with your primary healthcare professional and ask for a referral to clinical genetics for genetic counselling.