Tiffani A. DeMarco, MS, CGC, is a certified genetic counselor and co-manager of the Cancer Genetics Program at the Inova Translational Medicine Institute. She specializes in counseling patients and family members at risk for hereditary cancers. Read Tiffani DeMarco’s profile.
Recently, The Washington Post discussed genetic counseling during a live program called “Chasing Cancer.” During the discussion, Theodora Ross, MD, PhD, the director of UT Southwestern Medical Center Cancer Genetics Program, commented that there aren’t enough genetic counselors or doctors who understand genetics.
While that’s an unfortunate truth in many hospitals, I’m proud to say that the situation at Inova’s hospitals is very different. Inova has a deep commitment to personalized medicine, and a strong genetic counseling program is an important piece of that commitment.
So You Tested Your DNA – Now What?
Genetic testing has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. We now have many different tests that can help identify whether a person has an increased risk of certain types of cancer or other diseases. We also have genetic tests that can identify many inherited disorders in babies and children.
My fellow genetic counselors and I help patients make informed choices about whether to be tested and then help them make sense of the results. We can describe options for medical management moving forward and explain the implications for family members who might also have inherited genetic risk factors.
At Inova, we have a relatively large team of genetic counselors, including some who specialize in cancer genetics and others who specialize in pediatrics or cardiac genetics.
Part of what makes our genetic counseling program so successful is our team-based approach. Our cancer genetic counselors meet regularly with doctors including surgeons and oncologists to discuss patient care. In this way, genetics experts and medical experts learn from each other and work together to create a personalized care plan tailored for each unique patient.
The Growing Importance of Genetics
The field of genetics touches on all areas of medicine. I believe genetics will continue to become increasingly important in healthcare. Luckily, Inova has stayed ahead of the curve by investing in genetic counselors to meet our patients’ needs.
Looking forward, we want to continue to stay one step ahead. That’s part of the reason Inova is establishing the new Inova Center for Personalized Health. The new center will strengthen our team-based approach by bringing surgeons, cancer specialists, genetic counselors and other experts together under one roof, making it even easier to collaborate.
Still, we aren’t waiting until the center opens to provide the best personalized care for our patients. We already have the largest cancer genetics program in the region, and we’re pleased to offer our expertise to patients who are concerned about their personal or family history of cancer.