Genetic Testing Pros and Cons List
Genetic testing is steadily rising in popularity as more and more people decide that they want to know more about their personal genetic information. Some simply want to know more about their family history, while others seek additional information about any genetic mutations that they may be susceptible to.
Meanwhile, the opposing side of the argument does not see the need for genetic testing, believing that there are some things that are better left as a mystery. Since the benefits and the drawbacks to genetic testing are of equal importance, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
List of Pros of Genetic Testing
1. Abnormalities Are Caught Earlier
Certain genes can take on abnormalities without the person even being aware of them. Genetic testing allows people who believe that they have genetic abnormalities to get tested and nip potential problems in the bud. When it comes to identifying those who are at risk of developing cancer, genetic testing is the number one method of pinpointing these people and allowing them to get the help they need.
Until further medical advances are made, genetic testing is the best way for people to learn whether or not they are at risk for developing cancer. Receiving a positive genetic test result gives people the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments that they need to. They can make an appointment with a trusted physician to decide upon courses of treatment.
2. Easier To Treat Cancer
The earlier you are able to detect cancer, the more courses of treatment that are available to you. Preventive medicine is the best medicine of all and genetic testing increases people’s access to these needed medications. If a person knows that they have cancer in a certain area and it has not been given the opportunity to spread, then it is much easier for a doctor to remove.
Genetic testing can even catch cancer before it has had a chance to form, giving people a fighting chance to beat it with minimal pain and suffering. A genetic test may also show risk factors for other deficiencies, which gives a patient the heads up they need to schedule further tests and change their lifestyle accordingly.
3. Enhanced Research
By submitting to genetic testing, a person is doing their part to enhance medical research. The more genes that a physician or scientist is allowed to study, the more knowledge they will gain on the subject, which not only helps us, but also helps others who are struggling with the same medical issues. Being able to prevent cancer in other patients is one of the greatest gifts that you can give.
Family members also benefit from your test results. If abnormalities are found in you or the tests show that you are highly susceptible to certain diseases, then family members can also get themselves tested and catch potential diseases and disorders before they have a chance to take root. Adjustments can be made and there are a variety of other decisions that can be made about how to further safeguard the ones you love.
List of Cons of Genetic Testing
1. Test Results May Be Unclear
While some tests provide very clear results and allow patients to make necessary changes, all genetic testing results are not that cut and dry. There are forms of cancer that doctors still cannot treat. For example, if a person’s test comes back positive for ovarian cancer, this knowledge is of little use to them. There are very few courses of treatment available for diseases of this nature.
For certain diseases, the best that a doctor will be able to do for you is to put you on a medication and hope that you get better. Even if ovarian cancer or breast cancer are caught in the early stages, this is not a guarantee that a doctor will have the ability to cure you. In some instances, a person can only lower their risk factors, not eliminate them.
2. Removal Is Not Always The Answer
Some people have a very rudimentary view of cancer and how it is treated. A genetic test may be able to show where the cancer is, but this does not mean that the area can simply be chopped off and the person is cured. Even in cases involving breast cancer, removal of the infected breast does not ensure the eradication of the disease. Cancerous cells often move to nearby organs and tissues.
Even when abnormal genes are found and removed, the patient will still have cancer. When these genes are located, it becomes important for the person to schedule regular doctor’s appointments and remain on top of their health. Genetic testing is often treated as a magical cure all for disease and this perception is far from the true reality of the matter.
3. Difficulty Getting Health Insurance
If your genetic tests come back positive and show that you are at risk for developing cancer, then it may become next to impossible for you to get the health insurance that you need. Obviously, a health insurance company is going to be much more reticent about supplying coverage to a person who could potentially need expensive treatments and medications.
While genetic information being used against people has not become a major problem yet, this is because genetic testing is not very widespread. As it continues to rise in popularity, it will become more difficult for people with abnormal cells and susceptibilities to disease to get coverage.
DTC Genetics: Pros and Cons
* The ability to obtain personal genetic information quickly and privately without a “prescription”. The information can include disease predisposition and carrier status.
* This ability to make lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, based on the testing results.
* Access to interesting information about ancestry. Some DTC companies offer testing services that will determine the presence and percentage of ethnic, geographic and even Neanderthal DNA.
* The relative affordability of DTC testing compared to other forms of genetic testing. Many companies offer services for a few hundred dollars.
The majority of the drawbacks associated with DTC genetic testing stem from the absence of a medical professional that can help an individual understand the results. Many companies have genetic counselors on staff. However, email and phone exchanges are poor substitutes for a face-to-face discussion. Common misunderstandings regarding genetic testing results include:
* An overestimation of the role genetics plays in disease. The amount that genetics contributes to a trait varies, but very few traits and/or disease are controlled strictly be genes. Most traits are also affected by environmental factors and lifestyle choices.
* Difficulty in interpreting a disease risk. Participants must relay on emails and information on a website to understand their disease risk versus the average population risk. Also, the disease risk presented by DTC companies does not include a timeframe. For some diseases the risk remains low until later in life and then goes up incrementally with age.
* Confusion over the methodology. Not all genetic testing is “created equal”. Genetic tests for diseases that are caused by a known single gene defect can predict with more certainty (sometimes 100%) whether or not an individual will be affected by a disease or is a carrier. Often association studies (GWAS) are employed for diseases in which multiple genes contribute, or no specific gene has been identified. The results from GWAS do not have the same degree of certainty as traditional genetic tests.
* A lack of monitoring of the psychological and emotional status of the participant. Some DTC companies offer genetic tests for life-altering, and even terminal, conditions. Participants may feel a wide range of emotions including anger, depression and guilt after receiving difficult news.
* A lack of oversight of the companies. Because DTC genetics companies are relatively new, the government has not yet determined how to best regulate them. Many companies are reputable and offer quality services with reliable results. Other companies make false claims and use faulty practices. It is up to the consumer to distinguish the good from the bad.
CLICK HEREfor an introduction to DTC genetic testing
CLICK HERE to learn about different types of DTC genetic tests