What Is Genetic Testing? The Benefits Of Genetic Testing & Where To Get Genetic Testing Done
When most people hear the phrase ‘genetic testing’, they tend to think of some highly regulated medical procedure that is only available to a certain group of individuals – usually those who have a strong family history of disease. The fact is though, as the benefits of genetic testing are revealed, more and more everyday…
When most people hear the phrase ‘genetic testing’, they tend to think of some highly regulated medical procedure that is only available to a certain group of individuals – usually those who have a strong family history of disease.
The fact is though, as the benefits of genetic testing are revealed, more and more everyday individuals are choosing to learn about genetic testing companies and get this testing done for themselves.
It is a highly accessible testing method that can be used by just about everyone and for a wide number of reasons.
But what is genetic testing? Curious to know more about this testing process?
Check out the following video where I discuss into greater detail what genetic testing is all about.
So now that you have the basic information about the pros of genetic testing, let’s go into a few more details on why someone would want to get it done and what it can do for you in the long run.
What Is Genetic Testing
Before we get too deep into the reasons to use genetic testing, let’s first go over what exactly genetic testing is all about.
With genetic testing, you’ll be utilizing laboratory methods to assess your genetic make up and see which of your genetics you’ve inherited from your mother and which you’ve inherited from your father.
With each newborn baby, some of the genes will be passed from the father’s side of the family and some will be passed from the mothers. If the mother’s family side has a strong history of certain types of diseases, these type of testing can then reveal the chances that you have inherited those diseases as well.
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There are a number of different genetic tests that can be performed.
Types Of Genetic Tests
The first type of genetic testing is the diagnostic testing. This is used to help identify what exactly is causing someone to feel ill. If you are suffering from unwanted health symptoms but the doctors are unable to pinpoint exactly why you are experiencing these symptoms, genetic testing can help you give you the full picture.
Once you know the results of this test, you can then get a much better idea of how you will manage your health from there. This can go a long way towards helping you develop a proper treatment plan.
Predictive Genetic Testing
The next form of genetic testing you can do is predictive testing. As the name suggests, this is to help you better predict which diseases or illnesses you may be more likely to suffer from down the road.
For instance, if your mother has a background history of rheumatoid arthritis and you are wondering if you too might be at risk for developing this condition, genetic testing can help you better assess this.
While it won’t always be able to tell you for certain if you will or will not get the illness, it can help you learn whether you are at a higher risk than the average person.
This may be especially beneficial for those who have a family history of cancer, as about 5-10% of all cancers are thought to be due to inherited mutations. If your parents have any form of cancer, a genetic test may help you learn whether you too have that mutation.
If you find out you are, you can then make smarter modifications to your lifestyle and/or nutrition plan to help combat that risk and ensure that you don’t end up suffering from problems down the road.
The next form of genetic testing that’s often performed is referred to as carrier testing.
The benefits of this type of genetic testing is it can tell you whether you are a carrier of a certain type of gene that may result in disease.
Now, in many cases, you may carry a harmful gene, however you do not show outward expression of the disease and are not symptomatic. Some diseases require more than just having the gene to actually present themselves.
But, this does mean that you may pass that gene onto your children, who could then become impacted by the disease.
So carrier testing can help you identify whether there is a likelihood that you pass certain diseases onto your children.
If for instance one of your grandparents has Parkinson’s disease (which is about 15% genetic), but you or your parents do not have Parkinson’s disease, this could still mean that one of your kids has a higher probability of suffering from Parkinson’s disease as you may carry that gene.
In some case a child will be required to inherit impacted genes from both parents for the disease to actually become apparent, so knowing who is a carrier and who is not can be very beneficial.
Prenatal testing, as the name suggests, is done in pregnant women who want to know whether their unborn babies are suffering from any disease states.
This can be helpful to know to prepare the mother for birth and what’s to come or in cases where the parents may decide that termination is an option.
Unfortunately the baby does need to be 15-18 weeks old for the genetic testing to be done, which does pose some moral complications for many people as at this point, the baby is quite developed.
There is a 0.5-1% risk for complications when doing prenatal genetic testing, including miscarriage, so that’s another important factor for all pregnant women to consider before undergoing this type of testing.
Newborn screening is the next type of testing that can be completed and is done just a day or two after the baby is born. It’s performed in effort to determine whether the baby has an sort of diseases that may go on to cause problems with health and development later on at a future date.
Newborn screening is very often performed by parents again as a means to mentally prepare themselves for the future and to help come up with a treatment plan if necessary to care for the baby.
One interesting form of genetic testing that few people know about is pharmacogenomics testing. This form of testing is performed to help better understand how your body is reacting to medications that you are using.
It allows doctors to pinpoint which form of medications may be the best for your treatment protocol and allows them to make adjustments in your overall treatment plan.
For those who are going to be on medications for many months or years, this can be very beneficial to ensure they get the most effective treatment available. As not everyone’s body responds in a similar manner, it provides some strong insight for the treating physician.
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Research Genetic Testing
Finally, the last type of genetic testing that may be done is not for the general population, however may help the general population out. It’s simply done for research purposes to help medical researchers learn the contributions of genes to health and disease.
This type of genetic testing may be important for providing future information about how our lifestyle, genetics, and backgrounds can play a role in disease formation and prevention.
As scientists are learning more and more every day about disease and how to best manage disease conditions, this can help to provide new information that could potentially result in saving lives someday.
So there you have a closer look at the main types of genetic testing that can be performed. By figuring out where you fit in with these types, you can then better identify the answer to the question of where can I go to get genetic testing done.
Now let’s talk about the benefits of genetic testing.
Benefits Of Genetic Testing
The benefits of genetic testing can go far beyond simply knowing whether you stand the risk of developing a certain disease.
Genetic testing can offer the following benefits:
- Providing relief regarding certain disease
The first big benefit that genetic testing can provide is psychological relief for some individuals. If you have a family history of certain diseases and are worried about getting that disease yourself, if you then find out that you do not have it – and are not genetically predisposed to getting it, this can provide a huge level of relief.
If you are an adult who has watched a loved one suffer for many years with a disease, this can be a strong psychological burden to deal with.
- Providing information on how to formulate a proper treatment plan
If you do genetic testing and find out that you are at risk for a certain health condition or disease, this may instruct you on certain treatment plan steps you should be taking.
With some disease, prevention is really the best strategy that may either help you prevent suffering from the disease entirely, or dramatically minimize the symptoms that you experience.
Often treatments that you may need to undergo can get quite pricey (depending on your health care coverage), so learning how to form the treatment plan that will be most effective, could save you a substantial amount of money in the long run.
- Providing information that will help influence decisions on plans for children
While many couples who want children will have children regardless of what diseases and conditions they are at risk for, in some cases, it may impact your decision to have children at all.
In some cases if both you and your partner are carriers for a particular disease so there is a very high chance that your child will suffer from that disease, this may make you reconsider having children in the first place.
Or, if you are going to go ahead and have a baby, it will at least allow you to best prepare for the type of modifications you’ll need to make for their growth and development.
- Providing information on certain dietary strategies that should or should not be utilized in one’s life
Nutrition plays a significant role in your overall health and well-being, so should not be overlooked in terms of how it can prevent or accelerate states of disease.
If you go for genetic testing and find out that you are highly likely to develop heart disease for instance, you may be able to make some changes to the current diet you are using to dramatically reduce the chances that you do in fact develop that disease.
- Providing information about future tests that should be performed
Finally, the last big benefit to doing genetic testing is because it can also give you some important information about future tests that you may wish to perform as well.
If you know that you are highly likely to develop a certain disease for instance, this may mean that you will want to start doing other tests in the near future to help assess your current health.
If the disease starts to develop, by taking these tests early on, you can get a much better picture on what you need to do going forward to treat and manage the condition.
Compare this to not knowing that you are likely going to suffer from this disease, waiting until the symptoms get worse, and then taking steps to deal with it.
Basically, you want to be pro-active, rather than re-active and genetic testing will allow you to do this.
Drawbacks To Genetic Testing
So as much as we can sit here and talk about the benefits of genetic testing, there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind as well.
- The consequences of learning about a future disease
The first major one is the fact that you could very well find out that you may suffer from a debilitating disease at some point in your life.
For most people, this will be devastating news and could send them down a spiral of depression and other problems.
While some people will take the news to mean they need to start focusing on living each day to the fullest, most people will struggle with this information.
And, their family members who are closest to them will likely also experience negative feelings, depression, sadness, and so forth when they find out the news as well.
Remember it won’t be just yourself that you are impacting here, but your loved ones as well.
The fear to have children
Another drawback to genetic testing is that it may persuade some people not to have kids who really wanted to have children and who may have had perfectly healthy babies.
While there are some cases where genetic testing can be certain that your baby will have a certain disease, there are many questionable cases where the answer is not certain.
Therefore, it’s simply a risk. If that risk is high or the parents are very opposed to it, it may put them off having kids entirely just because they couldn’t deal with it should it actually occur.
This is unfortunate because in some cases, it wouldn’t have occurred so those people would have lost out on their chance to be parents because of the genetic testing.
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- Changes to life that are unwarranted
Along with the decision not to have children, other decisions that are based on genetic testing may also unwarranted in the future. For instance, if you test positive for inhering a cancer gene mutation from your parents, thus illustrating that you may be at a higher risk for cancer, this could cause you to make life decisions based up on this.
But, not everyone who tests positive is going to get cancer. Several factors can influence the outcome of the individual who has the mutation. You may move through life partially depressed over this news, changing your long-term outlook only to find that you never actually end up suffering from cancer at all.
- Potential discrimination
Another fear that some people have about genetic testing is discrimination from their health insurance provider. While there is currently an act that protects individuals from this, the act does not apply to long-term care, disability, as well as life insurance.
Therefore, if any of those is something you are thinking about, it could potentially be a reason to avoid genetic testing entirely.
Finally, the last drawback to genetic testing is the cost. While some health insurance companies may cover part of the testing, usually they will not cover all of it, thus some of the onus will be on the individual who wants to get the testing done.
Testing can range anywhere from as little as $100 to more than $2000 depending on what you are testing for, so that will definitely be a consideration for many people.
Going for a consult to establish what the testing will cost is usually the first step someone needs to take before going through with it. If not covered and the condition is not a serious threat, $2000+ out of pocket may be just too much for some individuals to afford.
So there you have a few of the drawbacks of genetic testing. For most people who want to get it done, these reasons are not strong enough to prevent them from going for it.
Before you do, it’s always a good idea to ensure that you have a strong support system in place and have the emotional capacity to deal with whatever answers you may get. Be aware of this going in to prevent an unpleasant outcome.
Where Can I Get Genetic Testing Done?
Wondering how to find genetic testing companies? One good resource to check out is the National Society of Genetic Counselors, which will help you find a trained professional in your area.
If you cannot find one in this area, you may want to speak to your physician or specialist as they will likely be able to refer you to someone who can do the testing for you.
There you have the information and facts you need to know about genetic testing. Have you ever had genetic testing done? Share your experience with us below.
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