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Genetic counseling: Family history interpretation and risk assessment

Benjamin A Raby, MD, MPH
Wendy Kohlmann, MS, CGC
Vickie Venne, MS, CGC
Section Editor
Anne Slavotinek, MBBS, PhD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


The process of genetic counseling is about sharing information in a manner useful to an individual, couple, or family. It involves obtaining the family and medical history from the patient and referring clinician, obtaining and reviewing medical records of the patient and family members, understanding the patient's perception of risk of developing a condition or recurrence of a condition, advising the patient about the advantages and disadvantages of genetic testing, assisting in choosing the most appropriate genetic test(s), and determining the implications of genetic test results and possible interventions for risk reduction, all in the context of the value system most relevant to the patient and family.

This topic provides guidelines for genetic counseling, including interpretation of the family history and assessment of risk for common adult-onset conditions.

Additional discussions about genetic testing, use of genetic information to guide drug dosing (pharmacogenomics), disclosure of incidental findings from genetic testing, and a glossary of genetics terminology are provided on the following reviews:

Genetic testing – (See "Genetic testing".)

Pharmacogenomics – (See "Overview of pharmacogenomics".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 17, 2017.
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