What Diseases can Genetic Testing Screen For?
Genetics can play a part in your health, especially when it comes to being predisposed to certain illnesses. Genetic testing can inform you if you’re predisposed to developing high cholesterol, celiac disease, age-related macular degeneration, and mental health disorders such as bi-polar. Genetics are also related to 5%-10% of all cancer diagnoses according to the American Cancer Society. Testing is available for all stages of life, from prenatal, to over retirement age. Even if you have already been diagnosed with a disease, getting testing can help to inform not only you but other members of your family about predisposition to certain diseases.
Do Positive Results Mean a Disease Will Develop?
One of the biggest fears when inquiring about genetic testing is that a positive result means that al disease will develop. This is not true. Many people who are predisposed genetically to certain diseases, such as breast or ovarian cancer do not develop these diseases. If you have a family history of certain diseases, you may be predisposed, or you may not carry the genetic markers or mutations that increase the chances of them developing. A health professional can help you to determine your results and the best health steps to take to possibly mitigate the development of genetic diseases.
Genetic testing for diseases helps to provide better insight into your health to increase your ability to make informed decisions. There are certain instances where genetic testing can greatly help you determine whether a lifestyle, environment or health choices need to be made to help increase the health and lower risks for those predisposed through genetics.
Genetic Testing for Cancer
Cancer is often thought to be hereditary, especially when certain types of cancer are involved like breast or ovarian cancer. Mutations in certain genes are higher in certain ethnical backgrounds. For example, women with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are more likely to carry the gene mutations that predispose them developing breast or ovarian cancer. Genetic testing is recommended for anyone who has a family history of cancer but is more so recommended for people who have:
- First degree relative with cancer (mother, father, and siblings)
- Many relatives on one side of the family with the same type of cancer
- Close relatives have cancers that are linked to hereditary cancer syndromes
- One or more family members have already had genetic testing that found a mutation
Although, some people who develop cancer are not genetically predisposed to cancer but can carry lifestyles in their family that attributes to cancer. Coming from a family of smokers and smoking, or a heavy drinking family can cause similar types of cancers or diseases to develop but are not necessarily tied into the genetics of the family. Genetic testing can help to show you if you are predisposed to any of the cancers that develop from that lifestyle and can help you make better overall health decisions, like quitting smoking, or decreasing or completing ceasing drinking alcohol.
How Can Genetic Testing Help Determine Predisposition to Cancer?
Genetic testing can not determine whether or not you will develop cancer. Genetic testing can only determine if you carry certain mutations or genes that are linked to certain cancers. Even a positive result of carrying genetic mutations doesn’t mean that cancer will develop. After the decision to undergo a test for genetic cancer testing, you should consult with a genetic counselor and your primary physician.
Genetic counselors can help you by:
- Determing a plan to deal with the medical implications of positive, negative, or uncertain test results
- The psychological benefits and risks of genetic test results
- The best test to preform
- The risk of passing mutations/genetic variants onto children
- The impact of testing on the family
A genetic counselor can help to walk you through the testing and the results process of genetic testing for diseases. A genetic counselor and a primary doctor can help to determine what the best course of action is for hereditary disease testing.
What is a Genetic Counselor?
A genetic counselor is someone who specializes in both genetics, and in counseling to provide personalized patient care for those who have undergone genetic testing, or who want to. These counselors are trained in reading genetic test results and can help guide and support patients take the next step in their genetic testing journey in seeking more information about:
- How inherited diseases or conditions can affect them, and their families
- How family and medical history can impact the occurrence or reoccurrence of diseases
- Which genetic test is the best to suit their needs, and what each test screens for
- The best health decisions to make once testing has been completed
Genetic counselors are highly recommended resources when considering undergoing genetic testing for diseases that can be linked to heredity. You can find genetic counselors online close to you and they can be utilized alongside a primary care doctor.
Genetic Testing for Diseases; Yay or Nay?
Genetic testing has come leaps and bounds and is now more accessible than ever. Many fears, questions, and concerns can be soothed or answered through genetic professionals that are certified and licensed in the space. No longer is genetic testing a taboo or alternative option when seeking answers about hereditary health risks. Getting tested today can help you to educate yourself, and take a look into once unknown health factors.