What is Genetic Counselling?
What Does a Genetic Counsellor Do?
How To Obtain Genetic Counselling?
North York General Hospital Genetic Centre

What is Genetic Counselling?

A health care service available to individuals, families or couples. Genetic counselling involves the provision of medical information about genetic disorders and risks, that can help individuals make personal decisions about their health, pregnancies, or their child's health care.

Genetic counselling is offered to people who are concerned about:


What Does a Genetic Counsellor Do?

Genetic counsellors are specially trained medical professionals. They are skilled at obtaining medical information from the patient and medical sources and communicating the information to patients. This process involves an attempt, by one or more appropriately trained persons helping the individual or family:


How To Obtain Genetic Counselling?

Discuss your concerns with Dr. Pairaudeau and he can make a referral to the genetics department at North York General Hospital. Genetic counselling is covered by O.H.I.P.


Genetics at North York General Hospital

What is Genetics ?
Genetics is a rapidly-growing area of science and medicine, with frequent newspaper headlines announcing the discovery of new genes, or knowledge about genetic diseases. Our Genetics Program is part of these exciting developments. We offer services in several areas: assessment, diagnosis, and counselling for patients; laboratory support for patients at our own and other centres; and participation in education and research.
The Genetics Program offers a wide variety of testing and counselling services for individuals and families with genetic concerns. We serve over 8,000 patients each year, making ours one of the largest regional genetics centres in the province.


Genetic testing can:
  • detect genetic abnormalities in developing pregnancies.
  • indicate the likelihood of a patient developing an inherited condition such as Huntington disease or breast cancer later in life.
  • diagnose genetic diseases after symptoms begin to be experienced.
  • Patients with genetic concerns first meet with a genetic counsellor or geneticist to talk about the possible implications and the choices they will face as a result of testing for themselves or their developing child. Since genetic testing may affect more than the individual, counselling is available for the entire family.
    Patients may be referred to the Genetics Program by their physician or midwife.

    Integrated Prentatal Screening
    North York General Hospital was the first hospital in Canada to offer Integrated Prenatal Screening (IPS). It is a major advancement over the current standard for prenatal screening called Maternal Serum Screening (MSS). IPS is a two-part, non-invasive test to detect birth defects. This screening method is done at 10-14 weeks and reduces the rate of false postives for certain birth defects while maintaining a very high accuracy. Women have a blood test plus an ultrasound. Since it can be done during the first trimester, rather than having to wait until the second trimester for the MSS test, IPS may provide women with reassurance about their baby's health earlier in the pregnancy.

    Press release: North York General pioneers prenatal screening test

    Maternal Serum Screening
    We were the first hospital in Ontario to offer Maternal Serum Screening (MSS). This blood test is offered to all pregnant women to indicate whether the pregnancy is at increased risk for Down syndrome or spina bifida. In addition, we manage the provincial MSS database. The database was developed to allow for continuous monitoring and research of this large program. 
    Predictive testing for Huntington Disease
    We have the largest genetic testing centre for Huntington Disease in Canada, and the only one in Toronto. Huntington Disease is a degenerative disease affecting the brain. Patients become debilitated over time. Usually symptoms do not appear until adulthood, so many people decide to be tested to find out if they have inherited the gene that causes the disease. Those who test positive for the gene may benefit from a Huntington Disease Support Group that meets every two months. Our experience in working with patients making the decision about testing for Huntington Disease provides an important model for future genetic testing of similar diseases that occur later in life. For information call (416) 756-6345. 
    Familial Breast Cancer
    Recently, thanks to the support of donors, the Charlotte and Lewis Steinberg Familial Breast Cancer Clinic opened. It provides genetic counselling and testing for women with a family history of breast cancer, as well as ongoing exams and mammography. 
    Regional Centres
    We support associate clinics at Orillia Soliders Memorial Hospital, Rouge Valley Health System (Centenary Health Centre site) and York Central Hospital so that genetic counselling can be offered to people in their own community. We also provide professional staff to outreach clinics in North Bay, Sudbury, Timmins and Thunder Bay.
    Along with patient care and laboratory testing, the Genetics Program is also involved in numerous national and international research programs as well as education for the public and other health care professionals.


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