Interpreting Genetic Tests With Your Doctor is A Must
The rise in popularity of easy at home genetic testing kits has caused many people to inquire about their genetic make-up. Looking deeper into an individual’s health has always been something done with the discretion and guidance of a doctor; they are the professionals and have years of experience and knowledge guiding them. At home genetic tests are helpful when looking into ancestry and other background on genealogy. When looking into genetic testing to get more information about health and possible risks of developing certain diseases. Consumers should always consult with a medical professional before and after genetic testing to go over the results. Not all positive results are necessarily a good sign, and not all negative results are malicious in genetic makeup. Doctors and genetic counselors can guide patients to the next best move for their health and future precautions to take for themselves, and their families.
Why Not Direct to Consumer Genetic Testing Alone?
When taking a test similar to many of the popular market options such as 23andMe the results can be overwhelming to say the least. The results are often robust and can lead to confusion with someone who is inexperienced in genetics as most of the population is. While the test provide in depth information, without proper deciphering of the murky parts it can lead to more confusion.
Consulting with your primary care doctor, or a genetic counselor, who specializes in the field of genetics is always the safest route when doing genetic testing. At home genetic testing not only alerts the consumer, but can also show traits that can be passed onto children. If a consumer doesn’t understand the information in the results it can cause unnecessary panic in the household. A genetic counselor can walk the consumer and their family through the crucial next steps.
When deciding to undergo genetic testing consumers should consult with their healthcare providers before, and after the testing. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine “When interpreting test results, healthcare professionals consider a person’s medical history, family history, and the type of genetic test that was done… Also, health professionals typically cannot use a positive test result to predict the course or severity of a condition.” While healthcare professionals can accurately assess a patients’ health that does not correlate directly to being able to diagnose off a genetic testing result. To the untrained eye and mind, a positive result could come across as a definite diagnosis of a disease.
A positive result on a genetic test means that the laboratory found a change in a particular gene, chromosome, or protein of interest. A positive test results can mean that someone is predisposed to developing an illness, or disease but does not necessitate that the disease will be developed. Some diseases and illness although they are genetic, can be controlled or prevented with healthy choices such as diet and exercise.
A negative result on a genetic test means that the lab didn’t find a change in the gene, chromosome or protein that is being tested. A negative test results doesn’t guarantee that a certain disease or illness won’t develop. A negative result simply means that a patient isn’t predisposed to developing any of the illnesses and diseases they were testing for. Illnesses and diseases such as cancer can still develop in an individual who tested negative. A negative test result means that they aren’t at a higher predisposition than the general popular. The results of genetic testing can be extremely involved dependent on the type of test that was done. To properly interpret the results of genetic testing, it is paramount to review genetic test results with a healthcare professional.
Involving a Healthcare Professional in the Genetic Testing Process
When a patient needs to have surgery, they are referred to a surgeon; the same should apply to all specialty fields such as genetic testing. While the process of getting connected to a genetic specialist may seem daunting, in the long run it is a necessity. As with any referral, patients may need to be directed by a primary care physician to a reputable genetic counselor. When meeting with a genetic specialist they can review medical records from a referring physician and ensure that the proper testing is done to begin mitigating genetic risks.
A generalized test may not be sufficient for all. Especially for those who are seeking genetic testing assistance in finding the right medication. Many mental health diseases, such as depression and bi-polar disorder have strong ties to genetics, but all medications may not work the same for each member in the genealogical tree. Involving a healthcare professional from the beginning can assist consumers in taking the right test – the first time. Although, in some cases additional testing may be necessary to look further into test results. Involving a healthcare professional can alleviate the worrisome runaround of possible misdiagnosis. When reading the results of genetic testing, there are many variants and not all of them are clear, or pertain to the information that patients need.
Misinterpretation of Genetic Testing by Non-Healthcare Professionals
Misinformation and misinterpretation of genetic testing results can be extremely counterintuitive. With any healthcare plan, it shouldn’t be taken into the hands of the patient alone. Misdiagnosis can result in unnecessary procedures and medications if misinterpreted. When trying to identify the causes and possible mutations present in one family member, or multiple family members a healthcare professional can construct the correct testing plan. A generalized, or at home test can be expensive to pay for out of pocket, but many insurance plans from employers are now covering genetic testing.
With the availability of genetic tests, and healthcare professionals who specialize in genetics there is no reason why a professional shouldn’t be involved in all genetic testing processes. A healthcare professional should be contacted from the start to address any concerns related to genetic testing and what testing needs to be done. While waiting for the results a genetic counselor can help to guide patients in the right direction of healthier lifestyle choices. Making healthier choices doesn’t mean that the results will vary when they come back. After the results come back a genetic counselor will review the genetic testing data with the patient and from there formulate a plan to deal with any negative results.
Having a genetic counselor or healthcare professional to guide the process that there is less room for misinterpretation of results. A genetic counselor can help patients to assess current risks to mitigate certain predispositions to illness. For example, some people are predisposed to high cholesterol. That does not mean that at that time they have high cholesterol, but a genetic counselor can help to mitigate it from either worsening if it’s already been developed, or prevent it with the right course of action.
If there are any preexisting conditions that genetic testing was used to identify the cause, a genetic counselor can help to educate patients on the risk of those gene mutations being passed on. For some time those with preexisting conditions wouldn’t pursue genetic testing due to it affecting their health insurance coverage. The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) prevents people being penalized for their genetic background and predispositions. If a parent has a gene mutation, it does not automatically mean that it will be passed down to their children.
Genetic counselors and other experienced healthcare professionals can also help entire families through the genetic testing process to create an all encompassing approach to genetic testing. Leaving the interpretation and mitigation actions of genetic testing solely in the hands of the testers can create future problems, not due to genetics, but to misinformation.
Healthcare Professionals and the Future of Genetic Testing
Healthcare professionals involvement in genetic testing is only a step in the right direction to creating a robust approach to accessible and accurate genetic testing. Working alongside patients from the inception of the genetic testing process, to making aftercare plans is the only approach that should be taken to genetic testing. Genetic testing is a cutting edge and innovative advancement in healthcare for all, but it should be treated as a medical test. Involvement with healthcare professionals who are armed with the facts and data of genetic testing is how the consumer experience will advance, and will also allow for further advances in the genetic testing space.