Woman's genetic counselors can help you understand your genetic risks for certain diseases, such as cancer, or for passing an existing disease on to a child. Genetic counseling can lead to the earliest detection of diseases you or your baby may be at-risk of developing.
If you are concerned about diseases that run in your family, talk to you doctor about genetic counseling.
What is Genetics?
Genetics is the study of heredity, the process in which parents pass certain genes onto their children. A person's physical appearance – height, hair color, skin color and eye color – are determined by genes. Other characteristics affected by heredity include:
- Likelihood of getting certain diseases
- Mental abilities
- Natural talents
Humans have an estimated 100,000 different genes that contain specific genetic information, and these genes are located on stick-like structures in the nucleus of cells called chromosomes.
When a gene is abnormal, or when entire chromosomes are left off or duplicated, defects in the structure or function of the body's organs or systems can occur. These mutations or abnormalities can result in disorders such as cystic fibrosis, a recessive genetic disease, or Down syndrome, an abnormality that occurs when a baby receives three No. 21 chromosomes.
Genetics and Pregnancy
Each person has more than 100,000 genes that direct the growth and development of every part of the body. These genes carry instructions for dominant or recessive traits that can be passed on to a child.
People who might be especially interested in genetic counseling for pregnancy include:
- Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant after age 35
- Couples who are first cousins or otherwise related by blood
- Couples who belong to certain racial/ethnic groups that have a higher incidence of a particular genetic disease
- Couples who have had repeated miscarriages
Genetics and Cancer
Women who might be especially interested in genetic testing regarding disease specific genes include:
- Strong family histories of certain cancers
- High risk ethnic groups
Should it be necessary, Woman's genetics team, which includes geneticist, Dr. Duane Superneau, can work with your oncologists and breast surgeons in determining a need for genetic testing and your course of treatment.