28 April 2014

How to Prepare for Health-Related Genetic Testing

Despite advances in medicine and technology, there are still many illnesses that can be both financially and physically devastating. Many people turn to genetic testing companies to help determine if they are predisposed to certain conditions. Doing so can help people make decisions about both short-term and long-term plans, including preventative care or family planning. So how do you prepare for your test? There are several steps you can take so you are mentally ready and can react appropriately.

Do Your Homework

Before going to a company or ordering a home DNA kit, it is a good idea to do your research regarding how genetic testing works. Basically, a sample of your DNA is collected and studied to look for any gene alterations that could lead to or cause a disease. There are many reasons people opt for the tests, such as:

·         Carrier: You may have family members who all have some type of genetic disorder or you may otherwise think you are prone to having a certain disease. This type of testing is especially helpful for people who want to have children but do not want to pass on certain conditions.
·         Predisposition: One of the most common tests, a predictive genetic test can help you determine if you have a high risk of developing a disease.
·         Diagnostic: Some people undergo genetic testing to confirm that the symptoms they have been experiencing are in fact due to a disease.

Talk to Your Doctor

It is always a good idea to consult with your physician regarding any health concerns you may have. In some cases, your genetic testing may be imperative before you make any other decisions. Your doctor will likely order a test if he or she suspects that you may be predisposed to having an illness.

Put Together Your Information

A key part of genetic testing is understanding your family’s medical history and predisposition to a variety of diseases. Talk to your parents, grandparents or other relatives about any genetic conditions they have or they know close family members have had. This will give you a better understanding about what your risks may be. It can also help you prepare for potential results. Talk with your doctor about illnesses that pop up in your family’s medical history so you know what your options are if your test comes back positive.

Cover Your Bases

One of the good things about predisposition tests is that they are pretty comprehensive, with some covering as many as a few dozen conditions. Among those are:

·         Immune system conditions: Lupus, Celiac disease, multiple sclerosis
·         Issues associated with aging: Alzheimer’s, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
·         Cardiovascular conditions: Heart disease, aneurysm, atrial fibrillation
·         Cancers: Breast, colorectal, skin
·         Other health issues: Type 1 and 2 diabetes, obesity, migraines

Check around with various genetic testing companies to ensure the one you choose offers the kind of test you need.

Understand the Test

Some people have anxiety about the test in general, as the results could have some serious but important implications. It may ease your fears to understand what will happen with the test. In some situations, you may need to give a blood sample, though many tests now simply take a sample from the inside of your cheek with a cotton swab. Before submitting to a test, be sure you know exactly how the test will be administered so you feel comfortable with it.

Have Realistic Expectations

There are three results you may get: positive, negative or inconclusive. It is important to note two things regarding genetic testing:

·         If your test comes back positive that you are predisposed to a certain illness, that does not mean you will definitely get sick, but it does mean you have options
·         If your test comes back negative, it does not always guarantee you will not develop the illness

If your test was inconclusive, it means the gene in question could not be distinguished. Sometimes, people have harmless variations in their genes that do not necessarily indicate an illness will develop. No matter what your results are, it is important that you discuss them with your physician so you can determine what your next steps will be.

Genetic testing can be a great way to provide you with vital, sometimes life-saving information. You can find out if you are at risk for developing a certain condition, which means you will be able to take necessary preventative steps. Planning for your long-term health is important, especially if you think you may be predisposed to a disease. Find a genetic testing company that offers you the kind of test you need and discuss your options with your physician.

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