Can Genetic Testing to Help You Identify and Avoid Chronic Illness? (Part II)
June 27, 2017
Genetic diseases are triggered by many factors and don’t rely solely on a person’s genetic make-up. Even in the case of identical twins, who share the same gene profile, each individual may have a different health and wellness profile. As medical research is looking to identify which medications work for a particular patient, thereby offering “personalized treatment”, the business of genetic testing is growing.
Genetic testing is sometimes used to determine someone’s predisposition to disease and illness, and is sometimes done when a patient has a close family member who has been affected by a disease. At times, preventative or drastic measures can be performed to reduce the risk of disease. A good example is a woman with a strong family history of breast cancer who has genetic testing to determine her likelihood of developing the disease. Genetic testing results can lead to a decision to undergo a mastectomy for prevention of potential life threatening breast cancer.
How should you go about deciding if genetic testing is right for you?
Before making the decision, ask yourself some questions about why you are considering the testing, and how you might feel about the results.
Will the testing results leave you with more questions or uncertainty?
If you’re looking for a final answer or determination of whether you’ll develop a particular disease, genetic testing won’t always give you the answers you’re looking for. Results may indicate that you have a predisposition (a chance) of developing a disease and scientists may include your test results with the results of other patients (who are of the same age, gender or demographic) to give you a percentage likelihood or risk of developing a disease. Genetic testing isn’t as precise as you might think. As a matter of fact, scientists has not identified all of the genetic markers and components for most diseases. As a result, scientists can’t identify genetic markers that have yet to be discovered.
Genetic testing is in the early stages of identifying an individual’s genetic profile in order to help physicians prescribe the medications that are best matched to treat the individual’s disease. Trending are the terms: “personalized medicine” and “targeted treatment” which refer to designing a treatment plan that is specific not only to the disease, but the individual patient as well. This research also shows promise for determining the underlying causes and potential cure for genetic diseases.
Do you have a family history of disease or illness that concerns you?
Family history is a component of identifying your predisposition for certain diseases. Your risk of developing colon cancer, for example, is higher if you have a close family member with the disease. Testing for colon cancer is relatively easy and uncomplicated. It may be more thorough and appropriate to begin colorectal cancer screening than genetic testing based on the family health history.
Ultimately, it’s important to cultivate a strong relationship with your doctor and talk about your family history, along with your concerns. Together, you can decide if genetic testing is right for you. While genetic testing may not have the answers you’re looking for, there are things you can do today that can influence your wellness and overall health. Lifestyle and ‘taking care of your genes’ can influence the way your genes behave and express themselves. In our next article, you’ll read about how small lifestyle changes can have immediate and dramatic health changes.