Demand for genetic testing surges, but there are too few experts to keep up

Consumer-facing genomics tests are growing in popularity as individuals seek preemptive information about potential disease in the future. However, the number of genetic counselors who help make sense of these tests isn't keeping up with the demand.

A Kaiser Health News report outlined the decision for one woman to undergo genetic testing for BRCA, a gene that if mutated increases a person's risk of developing certain cancers. When the woman decided to speak with a genetic counselor, the wait time for an appointment was five months.

"As genetic testing is growing and becoming more widely adopted by everyone for all sorts of things — not just pregnancy, but cancer, heart disease — there is a disconnect," Neha Kumar, chief product officer at genetic testing company Recombine and a genetic counselor, said in the report. "Who will actually interpret and provide those results to patients?"

There are 4,000 certified genetic counselors in the U.S. today, which means one for every 80,000 Americans, according to the report. What's more, the 300 genetic counselor job seekers graduating this spring falls far below the estimated 650 current open genetic counseling jobs, according to the report.

More articles on genomics:

What does the public really think of gene editing? 6 things to know
Kaiser's newly expanded DNA database: 6 things to know
Mount Sinai, Sage Bionetworks analyze nearly 600k genomes

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