Genetic testing came to the forefront of people's minds back in 2015 when Angelina Jolie underwent tests for a gene that could cause breast cancer. Her tests resulted in her undergoing a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy – an extremely personal decision she made to reduce her risk of being diagnosed with the disease.
What Is It?
Genetic testing refers to medical tests that read your genes (and gene mutations) to see if you’re susceptible to a disease. Many diseases, such as breast cancer, are genetically based. Most commonly, people are genetically tested for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease!
Companies That Do Genetic Testing
Many private practitioners and doctors do genetic testing! Testing done by a trained professional is often more accurate, however it runs a higher price tag. Over the past several years, different e-Commerce websites have released their own mailable genetic tests.
23andMe is a well-known online genetic tester! Their popular website boasts many services that ship right to your door!
Some of the main benefits of 23andMe are:
- Ships right to your door
- The Health Service comes in a combination pack with the Ancestry service
- Relatively cheap
- You can find discounts online which further lower the price
Circle DNA is a little less reputable than its competitors, and their price point is much higher than that of 23andMe. However, they have great ratings on TrustPilot.
Other benefits of Circle DNA are:
- Claims to be the world’s most comprehensive genetic test
- Includes a complimentary one on one consultation
- Ships right to your door
Similarly to 23andMe is CRIGenetics. CRIGenetics also offers an ancestry and health test that offers a complete genetic picture of you. Though the website isn’t as established as 23andMe, there are some benefits to this option:
- Cheaper than 23andMe
- Offers an 8-week efficiency guarantee
Life Lab Genetics
Life Lab Genetics is another at-home genetic testing website. They differ from their competitors because you can order different testing panels - opposed to getting a full panel done. However, if you’re willing to spend the money and you’re concerned about a specific gene, this might be a good fit.
- Significantly more expensive than other tests
- More specialized testing
Benefits of Genetic Testing
There are many benefits of genetic testing! It gives you a magnifying glass into your life and allows you to better understand your heritage and your health.
Predisposition to Disease
Hands down, the largest benefit of genetic testing is the knowledge of what diseases (if any), you’re more susceptible to. It gives you an opportunity to improve your lifestyle to better your chances of staying disease-free. Though Angelina Jolie's surgery is an extreme example of this, there are minor changes that we can make. For example, your doctor may suggest a healthier diet or frequent exercise. If you have a predisposition to colon cancer your doctor may suggest the cologuard test or to get a colonoscopy at an earlier age.
Can Adjust Diet
By learning what red flags your genes may hold, you can become educated in your diet and what foods you can eat to minimize your risk. If you’re at a high risk of developing heart disease, you can alter your diet by avoiding high-cholesterol foods and “bad” fats such as trans fats and unsaturated fats.
Genetic testing can help navigate you and your doctor in the right direction. You will become aware of what tests you need to do to ensure you’re staying healthy! If you're at high risk for breast cancer, you can do more self-breast exams and your physician may order more frequent mammograms.
Issue With Genetic Testing
Many Disease Do Not Have Cures
Unfortunately many diseases don’t have cures. Even by being proactive with your health and undergoing genetic testing, there’s a chance you may be predisposed to a disease that doesn’t have a cure. For example, Parkinson’s is unfortunately incurable - even if you catch it early. So, realistically, genetic testing doesn’t actually help in avoiding or curing a disease such as that.
Data kept and stored may affect insurance prices
Let’s face it - life insurance is already expensive!
Insurance providers often can access health records when determining your plan. Physicians often will record the genetic test results as a reminder for them and to share with other specialists. Unfortunately, this means that insurance providers will see your test results.
Similarly, to how smoking increases insurance premiums, unfavourable genetic testing can too. Should you be predisposed to disease, the insurance provider will deem you high risk. That can result in either higher premiums or even a complete denial in life insurance.
The truth is: Stress influences our health - in a big way! A negative result of genetic testing may contribute to stress and anxiety. Anxiety following a genetic test is likely one of the biggest downfalls to the procedure. Instead of providing helpful benefits, somebody that is prone to stress might actually just suffer from debilitating anxiety due to the test.
It’s important to remember that a negative test result is not a diagnosis! There is a chance that you might go on to live a healthy life, even if your testing uncovers that you’re at a high risk of developing heart disease. Genetic testing portrays red flags for your genetics and some conditions that genetic testing can test for may not have a cure – which could lead to additional fear in the patient.
This is one of the biggest cons to genetic testing. If you find out that you are prone to an incurable disease such as Parkinsons it may send you into a mental tailspin. You may never develop Parkinson’s in your life but still live in constant fear.
Genetic testing is a personal decision, and we suggest weighing our the benefits for YOU when deciding whether it’s something you want to get done! The biggest question to ask yourself is how prone to health anxiety are you. If you have issues with health anxiety be very careful when it comes to genetic testing because it can really mess you up.
Depends on personality
There are plenty of people that can use genetic testing as a tool for lifestyle changes – which is excellent. However, if you think it might lead you down a road of stress and paranoia, then it might not be a great fit for you. Ultimately, it is just a resource, but it shouldn’t derail your life or your peace of mind.
Deep-dive into your personality and make the decision that is best for you!
Depends on money situation
Genetic testing can be expensive - especially if you decide to work directly with a physician! If you feel that the tests will provide more benefit then harm, then this hefty bill might not concern you! However, it’s essential that you’re paying for something that you feel is 100% beneficial.
Do your research and decide whether you think the test is worth the money for you.
The older you are the more diseases you are susceptible to. You may be better of doing genetic testing as you get older. Have a discussion with your doctor. Science and research is advancing at a pretty fast paced and more and more diseases are starting to have cures, treatment and management options. With those things in place geneting genetic testing can be a good idea.
Instead of being genetically tested, you could work directly with a doctor! Find a doctor that you trust. Finding a doctor that you feel comfortable being honest with is imperative to your health.
Regular blood tests
Go for regular blood tests. Blood testing can show you your cholesterol levels, blood counts and hormone levels. Get familiar with the different ranges and ask your doctor to keep a record yourself.
Implement a healthy diet. Consider meeting with a nutritionist to implement a healthy, balanced diet that is personalized to you. A proper diet should minimize cholesterol and unhealthy fats while providing a nutritious, antioxidant-rich diet.
Be active! Most doctors recommend getting at least 30-minutes of physical activity per day. Depending on your own bodily restrictions, you may want to consult an expert on the best physical activity for you. Get your blood flowing and improve your cardiovascular health.
Quit smoking! Smoking is carcinogenic, and it has detrimental effects on your heart and lungs. If you’re a smoker, kick the habit and replace it with healthier ones.
Whether you decide to get genetically tested or not is entirely up to you! There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to unique health circumstances and decisions. Our advice is to stay open-minded and always walk in the direction of healing and health – whatever you determine that might be for you! The biggest key here is how prone to health anxiety are you.
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