Genetic Counseling- Dean - WI

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Genetic Counseling

Genetics is an important part of all aspects of patient care, from prenatal testing to newborn screening, and assessing risk for inherited heart conditions and cancer. How do patients and families sort through the information and options?

Dean Medical Group has genetic counselors ready to help. These counselors have a combined professional experience of over 25 years and have been providing expertise in genetics for our patients since 1998.

What is Genetic Counseling?

Genetic counseling is the process of educating families or individuals about their risk for a particular genetic condition or health concern based on a thorough review of the family history and current literature. In addition to providing information regarding personal risk, the discussion includes some or all of the following topics:

• Medical information about the condition including symptoms, progression, modes of treatment and risk reduction options
• Availability, accuracy and limitations of genetic testing
• Options of prenatal diagnosis or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (Learn more about our Maternal-Fetal Medicine services.)
• Interpretation of genetic test results and review of resulting medical options
• Patient education materials, support groups and research studies
• Emotional and psychological impact

The process focuses on providing patients with the tools and understanding to help them make the medical and health decisions that are best for them and their family.

Traditionally, patients who sought genetic counseling had concerns regarding a current or future pregnancy. While still an important service provided, many more patients are now seeking genetic information for a wide variety of non-pregnancy related issues. Advances in our understanding of the inherited basis of common disease has led to the availability of genetic risk evaluation for:

• Breast, colon and other cancers
• Inherited cardiac arrhythmias
• Neurological conditions
• Hearing or vision loss
• Bleeding disorders
• Intellectual disability

Who are Genetic Counselors?

Genetic counselors are masters-level trained health care professionals. They receive extensive training in medical genetics and psychosocial counseling through accredited training programs. Genetic counselors are certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. More information about genetic counseling can be obtained at the National Society of Genetic Counselors website.

Should I have concerns about insurance?

Some patients are concerned about possible insurance discrimination and hesitate to seek genetic counseling services. Undergoing genetic counseling does not mean that genetic testing will automatically take place.

More importantly, there are no documented case reports nationwide of patients losing health insurance, being denied coverage or charged higher rates on the basis of undergoing a genetic test. There are state and federal laws in place such as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. This act was designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment.

Lastly, genetic counseling is covered by Dean Health Plan; genetic testing may require a prior authorization. See our Genetic Testing Policy. You should check with any other insurance carrier regarding coverage of services prior to scheduling an appointment for genetic counseling or genetic testing.

Can you give me examples of how genetic counseling can benefit me?

Below are a few examples of how genetic counseling may benefit an individual or family:


Julie was certain she would eventually get breast cancer. Both her mother and grandmother had already had the disease. Through the process of cancer genetic counseling, Julie learned that her risk of breast cancer was not nearly as high as she had expected, and that genetic testing would not be helpful in her situation. She was also informed of lifestyle options that could significantly reduce her risk.

Hearing Loss

Kim and Mark were surprised to discover that their newborn son had significant hearing loss. How did this happen…could it happen again? They met with a genetic counselor who assisted the family in obtaining the appropriate genetic testing. The results not only provided an explanation for their son’s hearing loss, but also helped them to understand the implications for future children and other family members.

Muscular Dystrophy

Chris had grown up with her cousin, Tom, who had muscular dystrophy (MD). As much as she cared for her cousin, she was concerned about having a child with this devastating disease. Her primary doctor suggested she meet with a genetic counselor to discuss the chance that she could have a child with MD and review options for genetic carrier testing.

By obtaining previous records, the counselor was able to determine that a specific MD gene mutation had been identified in Tom. This allowed Chris to be tested with great accuracy. Upon learning she did not carry the mutation, and therefore had no increased risk for a child with MD, she and her husband began planning their family.


At the age of 35, Sarah became pregnant and was interested in learning about her risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. She met with a genetic counselor to review her age-related risks and testing options. Sarah chose to have a blood test called non-invasive prenatal testing. The results were normal, which greatly reduced her risks of having a baby with a chromosome condition.

Isabel saw a genetic counselor during her pregnancy due to an unexpected finding of a chest mass on prenatal ultrasound. The genetic counselor met with Isabel and her husband to explain the ultrasound finding, discuss testing options and coordinate referrals to specialists such as a pediatric surgeon and the neonatal intensive care staff. Although she was concerned for her baby, she felt that the genetic counselor helped prepare her with information and resources to learn what to expect when her baby was born.

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