Should You Get a Genetic Test?

Genetic tests can tell you whether or not you have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases. And with over-the-counter home genetic test kits coming on the market, itís becoming easier than ever to find out more about your genetic make-up.

You have two options if youíre interested in getting a genetic test. You can buy a non-prescription test, such as 23andMe thatís delivered right to your home, or your doctor can order a genetic test for you. A doctor-prescribed genetic test also typically includes detailed genetic counseling before and after the test.

Either way, there are many considerations to take into account before deciding to get a genetic test. Letís take a closer look at the pros and cons of genetic testing.

ADVANTAGES OF GENETIC TESTS

1. Knowledge can help disease prevention.

If you know you have a genetic predisposition to a disease, you can take preventative action. For example, specialists estimate that around 70 percent of women with a fault in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene will develop breast cancer by the age of 80. These genetic faults are rare, but if you find out you have one of these faults, you can inform yourself on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.

If you get a home test, always discuss the results with your doctor before making any health decisions based on your test.

2. Genetic testing can help doctors recommend treatment or monitoring.

Genetic testing is important for diagnosing certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis. Once a clear diagnosis has been made, your doctor can determine a treatment strategy. Early treatment can be potentially life-saving for some diseases.

If a genetic predisposition to a disease is found, your doctor can order regular monitoring and surveillance to ensure the condition is diagnosed if it ever begins.

3. Genetic testing can assist with family planning and care.

You can find out if you or your partner are carriers for specific genetic disorders, as well as the possibility your children may inherit the disorder. Genetic testing is also frequently done on newborns to determine if they have certain genetic and metabolic abnormalities. If anything is found, you can start planning for potential treatment or required care.

Boy looking at DNA strand

DISADVANTAGES OF GENETIC TESTS

1. Genetic tests are limited.

Genetic tests can only test for a limited number of diseases that have been shown to have a genetic link. Itís important to understand that genetic testing is typically done for a specific reason and for a specific health issue, not as an exhaustive review of your overall health.

A survey done by SeniorLiving.org found that 75 percent of respondents would want to know if they had a genetic predisposition to cancer. But, expectations like this may be unrealistic. Genetic tests are only available for a handful of cancers, such as breast, bowel, prostate and ovarian cancer. Even the American Cancer Society states that ďSome types of cancer run in certain families, but most cancers are not clearly linked to the genes we inherit from our parents.Ē

According to 23andMeís website, they can only test for 9 diseases that your genes may increase your risk of developing. They have a few other tests for things like genetic traits and ancestry information, but overall, the information you receive from over-the-counter genetic tests is not comprehensive enough to base any significant health decisions on.

2. You do not get a complete picture.

Even if a changed gene or chromosome is found on a genetic test, itís impossible to know exactly how that gene will affect you or your children. The test usually canít help determine if youíll show any symptoms of a disorder, how severe those symptoms may be, or whether the disorder will progress over time. And many genetic disorders currently have limited treatment available, regardless of whether or not you have an early diagnosis.

In addition, many other factors, such as environmental toxins, injuries, lifestyle choices and stress levels, also influence your disease risks. Genes are only one part of your overall health picture.

3. Genetic tests may subconsciously put you at greater risk of disease.

A Stanford University study found that volunteers who were falsely told that they were genetically predisposed to be worse at aerobic activities actually performed worse on an exercise test than they had prior to learning their false genetic results. And it wasnít only in their heads, the oxygen uptake in their lungs was biologically reduced during the test.

The placebo effect can be powerful, and learning your genetic test results may alter your health in unpredictable ways. Before getting a test, keep in mind that what you learn from the test canít be taken back.

4. Genetic testing is an ethical minefield.

Genetic testing raises countless ethical concerns. Having knowledge of a potential future outcome, such as developing a disease, may cause you to take unnecessary, harmful action.

You may choose to have preventative surgery that could go wrong, when you would have otherwise had a long and healthy life. Your test results may reveal genetic information about other family members, such as their own risk for a disease. Would other family members want to know this?

Also, you may decide not to have children if you find out youíre a carrier for a genetic disease. But those children may have never inherited the disease, or even if they did, they could have made significant contributions to the world and had happy, fulfilling lives. Is it right to make such major life decisions based on a limited genetic test?

Genetic testing can be an amazing tool to help you learn more about your genetic make-up. Although, your genes do not create your destiny. Itís important to discuss your test results with medical professionals before making any major health decisions.

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35 comments

Chad A
Chad A3 days ago

Thank you.

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Mia B
Mia B11 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Lorrie O
Lorrie O23 days ago

DNA is DiaNA. ExcOMmunication: X cOMmunication.

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heather g
heather g25 days ago

Since moving to cold Canada, I have developed health problems that are unknown to the rest of my family,

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Vincent T
Vincent T26 days ago

thank you for sharing

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Shirley P
Shirley Plowman27 days ago

VWEY INFORMATIVE!

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Yvonne T
Yvonne T27 days ago

for me no, thanks

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn27 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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Danuta W
Danuta W27 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Debbi W
Debbi W27 days ago

I am curious about the test but not enough to have one done. At my age there isn't much I need to know. Besides, I would want total control over who had my information. I don't trust anyone in corp. America. 23 and Me also puts you in contact with distant relatives. I'm not sure I'd trust them.

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