The past decade has seen an explosion of information on the human genome, and the medical community recognizes that genetic information and testing has the potential to affect medical care for all individuals, not just those with birth defects or rare genetic conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are genetic services?
Genetic services, including genetic counseling, are offered to people with genetic or inherited diseases and their families and to individuals (often children with birth defects or developmental delays) who are suspected of having a genetic condition. These services help families and their health care providers make informed decisions about their health care. In some cases, families use the information they get in a genetic evaluation to help them make reproductive decisions.
What happens in a genetic evaluation or a genetic counseling session?
That depends a lot on the kind of genetic condition a person has, what questions an individual wants answered, and who is providing services. In general, a session or series of sessions will include:
Diagnosis. In some cases, the goal of a genetic evaluation is to make a diagnosis of a particular genetic condition or syndrome. This is commonly the case when a child is born with multiple birth defects or problems with growth and development. In other cases, the diagnosis already is known, and the genetic counselor or geneticist probably will want to have documentation (such as lab test results or doctors notes) that state the diagnosis. Having documentation assures that the information you receive in your session is accurate.
Prognosis. Once a diagnosis is made, the next step is for a family to understand what the diagnosis means on a practical level. The geneticist or genetic counselor will explain how this condition has affected other people with the same diagnosis. Then they will use this information to help predict what kinds of symptoms or problems you or a family member may face in the future.
Treatment. Recent medical advances have created effective treatments for many genetic diseases. Some conditions have excellent treatment. Others have treatment that is experimental or controversial. There are still conditions for which no treatment exists. In some situations, such as some types of inherited cancer, the genetic counselor or geneticist will recommend screening or testing for certain types of cancers if a person has that condition. At the end of a genetic evaluation, you should have a clear understanding of the available treatments for the genetic condition affecting your family.
Inheritance and Recurrence Risks. Genetic conditions affect families in different ways. A person who has a relative with a genetic condition may wonder about the chances of developing this condition themselves or having a child with the condition. A person with a genetic condition may wonder about the chances of passing this condition on to their children. The geneticist or genetic counselor will be able to answer these questions about family history and how the condition runs in the family.
Genetic Testing. There are more genetic tests available than ever before. People have a lot of questions about how a genetic test is done, how useful it is, what it will cost, and who will have access to the result. The genetic counselor or geneticist will let you know whether testing is available for the condition that is affecting your family and answer any questions you have about the test. Because genetic testing is optional, it is important for you to get your questions answered before you make a decision about having the test. If you decide to have testing, the genetic services provider will review the result with you when it is available.
Who can benefit from genetic services?
People who have a birth defect or genetic condition
Parents who have had a child with a birth defect or genetic condition
Parents who have a child with developmental delay, cognitive impairment, or other problems with growth and development
Women who have had three or more miscarriages or infertility from an unknown cause
Pregnant women or couples considering having children in which:
The mother will be 35 years or older at the time of delivery
The couple are blood relatives (second cousins or closer)
Testing during the pregnancy indicated that the baby may have a birth defect or genetic condition
There is a family history of birth defects, cognitive impairment, or genetic disease
People concerned they may have inherited a tendency to develop cancer
People concerned that may have inherited a tendency to develop a neurologic condition such as Huntington Disease (Huntington’s Chorea)
A person whose doctor or health care provider has recommended a genetic evaluation or genetic testing
Who provides genetic services?
Many different people can provide genetic services. For some circumstances, your doctor or other health care provider may be able to give you all the information you need. Other circumstances require services of a more highly trained professional. Two types of genetics professionals provide services in Idaho, genetic counselors and clinical geneticists:
Clinical Geneticists are physicians who have completed medical school (usually they have an M.D. or similar degree), have been trained in a specialty (such as pediatrics, obstetrics, or internal medicine) and then completed additional training specifically in genetics. Clinical geneticists are certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics (ABMG). Geneticists frequently are asked to diagnose the cause of a child having multiple birth defects, make recommendations about management, and prescribe medications or other treatments for a child with a genetic condition.
Genetic Counselors have completed a Master’s Degree specifically in genetic counseling or a related field. They are certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC). Genetic counselors typically work with families to help them understand the nature of a genetic condition, testing and treatment options, options for reproductive decision making, and help connect families with a variety of other resources.
Geneticists and genetic counselors often work together as a team. Both work with individuals and families to help them understand the complexities of genetics and medicine. Their goal is to empower people touched by genetic disease by giving them information and support to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.
Cancer Genetic Counseling
Saint Alphonsus Cancer Care Center - Boise and Caldwell
Appointments: Telephone: (208) 367-3131
Fax (208) 367-4865
Questions: (208) 367-5597
St. Luke’s Mountain State’s Tumor Institute
Appointments: (208) 381-2734
Fax: (208) 381-3276
Questions: (208) 381-2734
General Pediatric Genetics and Metabolic Clinics
St. Luke's Genetics and Metabolic
Genetics Board Certification: Genetic Counseling, Clinical Genetics, Medical Biochemical Genetics
Appointments: Telephone: (208) 381-7339
Fax: (208) 381-6186
These Clinics Provide Services In: Clinical Genetics and Medical Biochemical Genetics
Questions: Contact clinic staff at (208) 381-7339
Western States Genetic Services Collaborative
Genetics Board Certification: Genetic Counseling, General Genetics
This Collaborative Provides Information In: General Genetics and Newborn Screening
Questions: Contact clinic staff at (808) 733-9072
Fax: (808) 733-9068
Prenatal Genetic Counseling
Saint Alphonsus Maternal and Fetal Medicine
Genetics Board Certification: Genetic Counseling
Appointments: Telephone: (208) 367-5544
St. Luke’s Maternal Fetal Medicine
Perinatal Services, Boise, ID
Genetics Board Certification: Genetic Counseling
Other Board Certification: Obstetrics-Gynecology
Appointments: Telephone: (208) 381-3088 Fax: (208) 381-4314
This Clinic Provides Services In: Prenatal Diagnosis
Questions: (208) 381-3088