Genetic testing, also referred to as DNA testing, is a method that uses high-end technology and thorough analysis of the test results to decode human genes. Since genes are our physical and functional unit of heredity, these tests can help us learn about our risks for certain health conditions. The test generally requires the DNA sample (such as saliva) of an individual to find out their body’s genetic responses and whether they have a genetic variant that can cause health problems in the future.
Benefits of Genetic Testing
Genetic or DNA testing plays a crucial role in helping people make informed decisions about their health. With the growing number of facilities for DNA testing in Lafayette, Colorado, and other parts of the country, more people can get this test done and enjoy the following benefits:
Helps Determine Treatment Protocol
If you have developed a disease, genetic testing can help identify whether you have a genetic variant or not. This information often helps determine the treatment protocol. A 2018 study revealed that many patients with early-stage invasive breast cancer could safely avoid chemotherapy when they have a lower risk of cancer recurrence, as measured by a commonly used genomic test. With the data gathered from such DNA tests, doctors can recommend a different type of treatment that the patient is more comfortable with.
Helps Make the Right Lifestyle Changes
With genetic testing, you can determine whether you have a genetic variant for a particular disease, even if you haven’t developed it. This information could lead you to make some positive changes in your lifestyle and behavior to lower the risk of developing that disease. This can be particularly useful for people with a family history of disorders like Alzheimer’s. If you know you are at risk of developing such a disease due to a genetic variant, you can reduce the risk ahead of time with the right lifestyle changes.
Can Provide Relief from the “Fear of Unknown”
Genetic testing clarifies whether you have a certain genetic variant or not. This allows you to eliminate the uncertainty and the stress that comes with it. A lot of people conduct online searches for simple symptoms and get overwhelmed when the internet associates such symptoms with critical diseases. In most cases, these search results are inaccurate. DNA testing can reveal whether you are really at risk of developing that disease, helping you get relief from the “Fear of the unknown.”
Risks and Limitations of Genetic Testing
Like any other medical test, genetic testing has its fair share of limitations and risks. To get the complete picture, you must know the drawbacks of this test.
Negative Results Often Mask Other Causes
As mentioned, genetic testing helps identify whether or not you have a genetic variant that may increase your risk of developing a certain disease or condition. However, a negative report does not necessarily mean you cannot develop the disease. Most diseases have multiple causes, including specific lifestyle habits, environmental factors, and more. Sadly, most people do not focus on the other causes once they find negative results on the genetic test.
Adds to the Ongoing Anxiety and Stress
Most people freak out and start to look for answers when they experience a symptom of a critical illness. While genetic testing can help get rid of the uncertainty, positive results can unnecessarily increase stress. A positive result does not mean you will automatically develop that disease. You can get a positive result on your DNA test and may not develop the disease in your lifetime. However, the worry of being at higher risk of developing the disease can impact the quality of life. A positive result cannot guarantee anything, but most people do not understand this.
The Cost of DNA Testing Can be High
Even though the cost of genetic sequencing has come down significantly in the past few decades, it still is a lot. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, the test costs somewhere around $1,000. The health insurance coverage can also vary; depending on the test, you may get partial or complete coverage.
It is important to understand that genetic testing only offers genetic information about the person’s health. While the information may help healthcare professionals decide the next course of action in treating a patient, it is not the only determining factor. No matter what the genetic test result suggests, always consult a doctor to know the right way to handle the case.