Genetic Testing – Is It For Everyone?
As technology continues to advance we are finding new and spectacular ways to diagnose and treat disease. Recently genetic testing has come to the forefront as a tool for assessing risks and probabilities of disease. Genetic testing is the process of using medical tests to look for mutations in a person’s genes or chromosomes. Genetic testing is used in a variety of ways. Often times is used during pregnancy to determine the likelihood of genetic mutations in the baby, such as Down syndrome. It is currently most often used on newborns to screen for inherited diseases like sickle cell and cystic fibrosis. Another common way genetic testing is being used is called carrier testing. This is used to test couples to determine if they carry a genetic mutation they might pass on to a child. One of the growing uses of genetic testing is determining cancer risks. The problem is that genetic testing to determine cancer risks is only done if you ask your doctor for it. So the question becomes, who should opt for genetic testing? If you have any of the following warning signs, you may choose to talk to your doctor.
1.) A recent diagnosis or physical finding that could be linked to an inherited cancer. (Polyps on the colon or ovaries)
2.) A family history of cancers that can be related to a single gene mutation. (Breast or pancreatic cancer)
3.) Several immediate family members (mother, father, brother, sister) have had cancer, especially the same type.
4.) Close relatives with cancers that have been related to inherited cancer syndromes.
5.) A family member had genetic testing and was found to have a genetic mutation.
6.) Family members who had cancer at a young age.
While genetic testing is not perfect it does provide enormous benefits. You will have the chance to better understand your risk of a certain disease. The current issue with genetic testing is that the answers are limited. Testing positive for genetic mutations does not always mean you will develop the disease. Genetic testing is not strictly regulated and there have been many cases of false positives or results being misread. Either way it is important to remember that these tests do not guarantee you will develop cancer, they only tell you what might happen. In many cases this has led to undue anxiety. As scientist continue to learn more about genes and their contribution to cancer, the more useful genetic testing will become.