Posted 3 years ago
What is a Genetic Counselor?
This past November 12th marked the fourth annual Genetic Counselor Awareness Day. If you ask any genetic counselor what question they get asked most frequently, they will all no doubt have the same answer: “What is a genetic counselor?” Often times, our answer is barely able to scratch the surface. But if given the time, there is so much more we would tell them about our profession.
The genetic counseling profession encompasses a wide array of diverse roles within just about every area of medicine. Genetic counselors are healthcare providers, researchers, consultants, educators, and entrepreneurs. We are master’s trained individuals who specialize in effectively interpreting and communicating genetic information to patients and their providers.
There are many sub-specialties within the field, including prenatal, pediatrics, cardiology, neurology, cancer, and others. Genetic counselors in each of these specialties have their own unique role within their area of healthcare, but all share the same fundamental goals: Helping patients and providers understand how their genetics impact their and/or their family member’s health.
With significant advancements in the field of cancer genetics, genetic counselors are quickly becoming a part of many cancer patient care teams. Cancer genetic counselors work with patients and their families to assess their risk for an inherited cancer predisposition. In certain cases, genetic testing is used in an attempt to identify an inherited genetic mutation that increases an individual’s risk for certain cancer types. The ultimate goal of genetic testing is to use information about their genetics to try to prevent cancers from occurring or detect them at the earliest, most treatable stage. We are ultimately trying to predict the future, so we can maybe change the future.
Genetic counseling is truly a diverse and vital profession. For so many individuals living with a genetic condition, genetic counselors are the difference between a confusing and stressful diagnostic odyssey and an informed, supported patient experience. We love what we do and the incredible impact it has on the lives of patients and their families.
We are proud to be a part of the rapidly evolving field of genetics and look forward to the day when this unique profession has grown to a point where the question “what is a genetic counselor?” is no longer on our list of frequently asked questions.
Mandy Kass, MS, CGC
As a certified oncology genetic counselor, Mandy works with patients who have a personal and/or family history of cancer to assess their risk of having an inherited cancer predisposition. This information allows for the pursuit of early detection or possibly prevention of certain cancer types.
The ultimate goal of cancer genetic counseling is to empower patients to use their personal risk information to better inform treatment and management decisions and to educate family members on their possible cancer risks.
Mandy obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Arizona State University in 2013. She then went on to pursue her Master’s Degree in Human Genetics from Sarah Lawrence College and graduated in 2016. Her training in genetic counseling included clinical rotations at several locations throughout New York City, including Columbia University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, and Bellevue Hospital.
About Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers
Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers (ICRC) is the largest multi-specialty oncology network in the Greater Metro Phoenix area. They have over 100 medical providers, a robust Integrative Services program, and a dedicated clinical research department. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has 15 valley locations and five comprehensive cancer care centers that offer a multi-disciplinary approach for expedited personalized patient care. For more information, please visit www.ironwoodcrc.com.