What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing looks for changes, sometimes called mutations or variants, in your DNA. Genetic testing is useful in many areas of medicine and can change the medical care you or your family member receives. For example, genetic testing can provide a diagnosis for a genetic condition such as Fragile X or information about your risk to develop cancer. There are many different kinds of genetic tests. Genetic tests are done using a blood or spit sample and results are usually ready in a few weeks. Because we share DNA with our family members, if you are found to have a genetic change, your family members may have the same change. Genetic counseling before and after genetic testing can help make sure that you are the right person in your family to get a genetic test, you’re getting the right genetic test, and that you understand your results.
Reasons for Genetic Testing
- Learn whether you have a condition that runs in your family before you have symptoms
- To learn about the chance a current or future pregnancy will have a genetic condition
- To diagnose a genetic condition if you or your child has symptoms
- To understand and guide your cancer prevention or treatment plan
After learning more about genetic testing, you might decide it’s not right for you. Some reasons might be that it’s not relevant to you or won’t change your medical care, it’s too expensive, and the results may make you worried or anxious.
Clinical genetic tests are different from direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests, which can give some information about medical and non-medical traits. Clinical genetic tests are ordered by your doctor for a specific medical reason. DTC tests are usually purchased by healthy individuals who are interested in learning more about traits like ancestry, responses to medications, or risk for developing certain complex conditions. DTC test results can be used to make decisions about lifestyle choices or provide issues to discuss with your doctor. However, DTC tests cannot definitely determine whether or not you will get a disease and should not be used alone for decisions about your treatment or medical care.