Genetics Program

The Genetics Program at the Health Sciences Centre offers:

  • Assessment and diagnosis of genetic conditions
  • Medical information and advice about genetic diseases or conditions for people at risk of a disorder that might be hereditary (run in the family)
  • Discussion about the risks of developing and passing on a genetic condition
  • Information regarding the management and prevention of genetic conditions
  • Arranging genetic testing, as appropriate


What is genetic counselling?

Genetic counselling is a health care service which provides information to families and individuals who are affected by or at-risk for inherited and/or genetic conditions.

Referrals

General public:

Referrals can be made through your health care provider. Once a referral is received, a family history questionnaire will be mailed to you. Once we receive the completed form, a genetics nurse counsellor/genetic counsellor will contact you.

Health care providers:

If you are a health care provider and wish to make a referral for one of your patients, please use the referral form and fax it to us at 807-684-5823. If you have any questions or would like to speak with a member of the genetics team before sending a referral please call us at 807-684-7320.

Who provides genetic services?

Geneticists and genetic counsellors are part of a team of health care professionals who provide genetic services. Geneticists are medical doctors who have special training in the area of genetic conditions. A genetic counsellor has post graduate training in genetic counseling. Together, they can provide information about genetic conditions and explain how they are passed from one generation to another.

Genetics clinics

Depending on the nature of the referral, patients either see a genetic counsellor or a geneticist. Appointments with a counsellor are available any time throughout the year. The geneticist holds genetics clinics four to five times per year. However, if a referral is urgent, patients see a geneticist through Telemedicine videoconferencing.

Is genetic counselling right for me?

Some reasons for a genetics referral include:

Preconception/Prenatal:

  • Personal history of 3 or more miscarriages
  • Maternal age of 40 years or older at time of delivery
  • Exposure to potentially harmful medications, drugs, chemicals etc. during pregnancy
  • Positive prenatal screen
  • Ultrasound findings that might suggest a genetic condition
  • Previous child with birth defect
  • Previous child with chromosome abnormality or other genetic condition
  • Specific ethnicity in which certain genetic conditions are more common

Paediatric:

  • Birth defect(s) or multiple congenital anomalies (cleft lip/palate, heart defects, spina bifida)
  • Developmental delay or learning disabilities of unknown cause
  • Sensory impairments (vision, hearing)
  • Metabolic disorders (PKU, galactosemia)
  • Known or suspected genetic disorders e.g. (Down syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy)

Adult:

Family history and/or a personal history of a potentially genetic adult onset condition (e.g. Huntington Disease, Polycystic Kidney Disease, Hereditary Cardiomyopathy, Muscular Dystrophies).

Hereditary Cancer

Recent scientific advancements have prompted an increase in interest in the area of hereditary cancers such as breast, ovarian, and colon cancers. Familial cancers make up only 5-10% of all cancers. Other cancers may also have a genetic connection, and a referral to genetics may be helpful to understand the risk to you and your family members and also to look into possible testing options for family members.

The genetics nurse counsellor/genetic counsellor and visiting geneticist provide information and counselling to those at risk. In collaboration with the Regional Cancer Care Northwest, a consultation with an oncologist is also available as needed.

Genetic services and costs

Genetic services are offered free of charge to those who have a valid OHIP card and meet our referral guidelines.