More People Seek Genetic Testing, But There Aren’t Enough Counselors


A recent NPR story discusses how the number of patients seeking genetic counseling and testing has increased dramatically, but the number of genetic counselors, the people who help both doctors and patients make sense of these tests, hasn’t expanded enough to keep up with that demand. There are just 4,000 certified genetic counselors in the country today. That’s one for every 80,000 Americans. North Memorial Genetic Counselor Joy Larsen Haidle was quoted in the article regarding gene tests and people’s recent willingness to talk about their genetic predispositions.

Erika Stallings’ mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. When it came back in her early 40s, her physicians started looking for clues.

“That’s when the doctors realized there may be something genetic going on, and that’s when she was tested, and found out she was a carrier for BRCA2,” says Stallings.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes. Carrying a mutated BRCA gene increases a person’s risk for developing certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer. Because Erika Stallings’ mom tested positive, Erika had a 50 percent chance of inheriting a mutated BRCA2 gene.

But Erika was only 22 years old when she learned of her mother’s diagnosis and not yet ready to put herself through the testing process…

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