Genetic testing and genetic counseling are becoming more integrated into modern medicine. We are mapping more of the genome and understanding genetics at deeper levels all the time. There is also the fact that humans are naturally curious which makes these kits such an attractive option for people.
Having an at-home genetic test done may seem fun and they are more accessible and affordable than ever. There is nothing inherently wrong with taking these tests, but you should be aware that they may not be needed. Some of the information that is discovered via testing can have serious ramifications. It’s important to be prepared for the results.
Here are 3 things to consider before you decide to participate in at-home genetic testing:
1. Be Knowledgeable About The Test’s Limitations Regarding Disease Risk
An at-home test is able to provide information about potential diseases. It can detect the fact your genetics give you a predisposition or increased risk of certain diseases. This is not a set-in-stone diagnosis,however. You may never get the disease or diseases you are genetically at risk for.
The at-home version of the test is not the same test medical providers use. They do not test for the same things. When it comes to the BRCA genes that indicate increased risk of breast cancer or other cancers, 23AndMe acknowledges that their testing only finds extremely rare mutations which are not the ones medical providers look for in assessing disease risk.
2. Heavily Consider Whether You Want To Know Your Risk For Diseases That Are Currently Without A Cure
Having the results in your hand may be a bittersweet or even anxiety-inducing moment. You may find out that you have a increased risk for certain serious diseases that are currently considered incurable.
Having increased risk does not act as a guarantee that you will get the disease. It’s possible you may be fearful of something that doesn’t come to pass. There is a significant amount of mental and emotional preparedness required to handle that possibility. Only you know if you’re ready.
3. Understand What You’ll Do With Your Results
Once you’ve done your testing and you get your results back, what do you plan to do with them? Do you want to schedule extra screenings as a preventative measure if you do show increased cancer risk, for example?
Even though these at-home tests are handy and fascinating, it may be prudent to enlist the help of a doctor or genetic counselor. Trained professionals will be able to assist you in figuring out what the results mean and how to move forward.
These tests can be a great starting point, but before you decide to do it, make sure you’re prepared. There are numerous resources online for genetic counseling, or you may make an appointment with your primary doctor to discuss the goals you have with testing and see what they recommend. Numerous doctors and genetic counselors prefer alternative options for reliable, accurate assessment of the risk of diseases.