Should you get a DNA test? When used for health reasons, DNA testing is utilized to give specific information so you can make decisions about your and your family’s health and medical care. Genetic tests during diagnosis helps to identify potential health problems, during treatment to determine which therapy is best for you and in the recovery phase to assess how you are responding to treatment.
To weigh whether or not a DNA test is right for you, check out these six reasons:
- You have a family history of a genetic condition. Are you at risk of getting this disease? Maybe a family member has been diagnosed with breast cancer caused by the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (it accounts for between 5 percent and 10 percent of all breast cancers and 15 percent of ovarian cancers). Genetic testing to determine if you carry the gene that causes this disease can’t pinpoint if you’ll also develop breast or ovarian cancer, but it can give you the chance to discuss options with your medical team and, if you do get sick, possibly start treatment earlier than if you didn’t know your risk.
- You want to know if you are a carrier for a disease before starting a family. It’s possible for a parent to be a carrier of a gene without having a disease and passing that disease to your children. If you or your partner have a family history of a genetic disease, DNA testing can let you know if you are a carrier of the gene. Some ethnic groups, such as African Americans, have a higher rate of being a carrier for certain diseases such as sickle cell or hereditary amyloidosis.
- You want prenatal screening. Some parents choose to have prenatal DNA testing to be more prepared for genetic diseases when their child is born. Though this is controversial, prenatal genetic testing can benefit a child with the RB1 gene, which increases the chance of the child being born with a sight-robbing tumor called retinoblastoma. If you know your child has this disease before he or she is born, treatment can begin immediately after birth.
- You’re sick. Diagnostic genetic testing can be used to identify the disease that is making you ill. You and your medical team can use the information from this test to create the best treatment plan.
- You want to know how medications will work to treat your illness. Pharmacogenomic, a type of DNA test, can give information on how certain medications are processed by your body. With this information, doctors can tailor your treatment and find medicines that work best with your genetic makeup.
- You want to contribute to medical research. Organizations researching certain diseases might use your DNA for further study. This research could directly benefit specific individuals, or it could help scientists better understand a disease and its effects on the body so better treatments can be developed.