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Published on May 28, 2019

Genetic counselors help patients understand risks, screening and results

If you have a patient with a family history of cancer, prenatal abnormality or genetic disease, Gundersen Health System genetic counselors are available to help your patients understand their health risks, screening or testing options, and test results.

"Genetic counseling should be the next first step," says Becky Pabst, MS, CGC, board-certified genetic counselor at Gundersen. "We can help educate patients and triage them to the appropriate follow-up care."

Becky Pabst, MS, CGC

Becky Pabst, MS, CGC

Referring at-risk patients to a genetic counselor allows them to gain the understanding they need to make informed decisions about their health. Equipped with knowledge, patients can then make the most of future appointments with specialists in high-risk clinics focused on risk-reducing strategies and treatment.

"Genetic counselors can go into detail about the risks associated with the mutation and also help patients cope with the psychosocial aspects like denial, guilt, hostility, grief and hopelessness that can stem from the results of genetic testing," Becky says. "This is different from the purpose of most appointments at high-risk clinics."

Depending on your patients' needs, Gundersen offers genetic counseling in the following areas:

Initial meetings with a genetic counselor usually last an hour and may include:

  • Review of personal and family medical history
  • A risk assessment based on personal and family history
  • Education about concerns or diagnosis
  • Information on genetic testing options
  • Genetic testing (such as a blood sample) if indicated after the discussion
  • Discussion of the meaning of possible genetic test results
  • Information on long-term resources

Genetic counseling services are available in-person in La Crosse and Onalaska. To make a referral, call Gundersen via MedLink at (800) 336-5465 or in La Crosse call (608) 775-5465.

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