5 Facts to Know About Genetic Testing
Genetic tests are medical exams that can identify mutations or changes in DNA—including chromosomes, genes, and proteins. These tests are used to confirm or rule out genetic disorders, identify ancestry, or to discover genetic mutations that parents may pass on to their children. There are many things to know before undergoing genetic testing, and it is important to consult with a professional before subjecting yourself to any medical test. Here is a list of the five most important things to know about genetic testing and how it can work for you:
There are Different Types of Genetic Tests
According to The US National Library of Medicine, genetic testing includes molecular genetic tests (isolating singular genes to identify mutations or disorders), chromosomal genetic tests (studying longer lengths of DNA to see if there are changes in the genetic makeup) and biochemical genetic tests (tests that study genetic proteins whose changes can indicate a disorder).
There are a handful of reasons as to why you may want to undergo genetic testing, and the type of genetic testing varies accordingly. You may want to be tested to identify a disease, pinpoint abnormalities that may cause a disease in the future (such as the BRCA gene which has been found to cause breast cancer), or to identify genetic abnormalities that you may pass along to your children.
Genetic Tests are Completed by Collecting a Sample of Tissue or Saliva
Most genetic samples require only a simple cheek swab or saliva sample. However, some genetic tests require more complicated sample, such as hair, skin, blood or tumor samples. During pregnancy, a genetic test called an amniocentesis is performed by extracting amniotic fluid from the uterus in order to test the baby for any genetic abnormalities or disorders.
Once a medical professional has collected the sample, it is sent off to a lab for testing. Laboratory technicians check the sample for abnormalities and provide your doctor with a written report. Your doctor then either discusses the results with you or connects you with a genetic counselor who can help you in understanding the results and what they mean for you.
There are Plenty of Benefits to Genetic Testing…
The power of knowledge is one of the biggest benefits people find in genetic testing. Many times patients feel better knowing whether or not they carry a disease; they are either relieved they don’t carry the it or they know that once identified they can treat the disease if possible. Negative results of your genetic test can also act as a health recommendation, because often genetic test results can help doctors prescribe a change in lifestyle to prevent the disease, or can, at the very least, monitor and test your health more closely in the hopes to catch and treat the disease more quickly. Genetic test results can also give you a stronger sense of agency, such as choosing your healthcare provider and plans, or whether or not to start a family.
…But There are Also Disadvantages to Genetic Testing
According to The National Human Genome Research Institute, while there may not be any impacts to your physical health from genetic testing, getting tested can have adverse emotional and financial effects. Emotional effects can include feeling scared, helpless, depressed, or guilty in the face of unfavorable test results. Genetic tests can also be expensive—ranging anywhere from $100 to upwards of $2,000 depending on the type of testing—and while some do, many healthcare plans do not cover the entire cost of testing.
There are also a few limitations to genetic testing. For example, testing positive for a genetic mutation doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a disease in the future. The tests also cannot predict the severity of the disease or symptoms.
There Are Thousands of Resources Available
Deciding whether or not to undergo genetic testing is a big decision. Luckily you’re not alone, as there are a variety of resources available to help you make the best decision for you and your family.