Navigating choppy waters: psychosocial implications of uncertainty

Psychosocial implications of uncertainty. As navigators of genetic testing, genetic counselors have seen it all – smooth seas, choppy waters and even the rare tsunami. Genetic testing sounds, well, so promising. Huge gene panels for epilepsy, whole exome sequencing – guaranteed to find an answer, right? Wrong. And let’s not even talk about secondary (incidental) findings, variants of uncertain significance and (gulp) non-paternity. While our technology has changed, navigating the choppy waters of psychosocial issues in genetic testing has not. Previous EpiGC posts to this blog have highlighted the challenges inherent to interpreting variants of uncertain significance. Now let’s talk about the psychosocial implications of dealing with uncertainty.

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A clinician’s guide to genetic test selection: navigating the Wild West

The Wild West. The diagnostic genetic testing landscape in 2016 is a paradox. In theory genetic testing has never been more widely available clinically, with over 20 diagnostic laboratories in the US alone offering a variety of genetic testing options for patients with epilepsy, ranging from single gene testing to NGS panels to whole exome sequencing. However, access to and reimbursement of genetic services varies widely, with no consensus on an approach to testing or professional guidelines to aide clinicians. Here is our brief guide to epilepsy genetic test selection for busy clinicians. Continue reading

Nothing’s for sure, that’s for sure: Evaluating variants of uncertain significance

VUS. In recent EpiGC posts, we discussed how laboratories evaluate sequence variants and the challenges of communicating variants of uncertain significance (VUS) to patients. While VUS results can be frustrating, by working together clinicians and laboratories may accumulate additional evidence that enables a more definitive variant classification. But how, you ask? Well, there are several ways . . .

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Explaining variants of uncertain significance – a guide for clinicians

VUSThe dreaded variant of uncertain significance. With the advent of next generation sequencing panels and exome sequencing, what used to be an occasional laboratory finding in epilepsy has now become a daily occurrence. Lab reports detailing multiple VUS findings for an individual patient have become a routine part of clinical practice. How do you, as a healthcare provider, explain the meaning and implications of VUS findings to patients and families in a way that is understandable to them?  Continue reading

Must love rules: an insider’s guide to variant sciences

Unknown significance. Quite possibly the two most dreaded words in clinical genetics. To some these two words should seldom be used let alone act as qualifiers for testing results. What are the rules of assessment? How do laboratories determine what constitutes enough evidence to say that a variant, previously known as mutation, is of known significance?   Continue reading

Retiring the word “mutation” in clinical practice

Mutation. What images does the word conjure up for you? Genetic counselors have long avoided using this term in clinical practice due to its similarity to the word “mutant”, favoring instead the vague but people friendly term “changed gene”. In fact, there is a far more scientific reason for clinicians to avoid using the term “mutation”, and that is the definition of the word itself.  Continue reading

Introducing EpiGC – a guest post

School days, school days, dear old golden rule days. It has been over two decades since I completed my training as a genetic counselor, but there are several families that I will always remember and find myself frequently talking about when I train students or discuss counseling issues with colleagues. One of them was a young couple, both with mild intellectual disability and epilepsy, expecting their first child.

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