The decision to take a genetic DNA test is a momentous one. Besides not knowing where the family tree will lead, knowing the identity of your relatives or your genetic diseases predisposition is just the beginning of a long journey of self-discovery.
Below are a few things you need to know before taking a DNA test.
1. Look to Your Family History for Clues
Understanding your family history can give you ideas on what kind of DNA testing you should go for. Knowing your family’s health history helps you establish whether there are certain terminal illnesses such as cancer in your family.
If there are, you might want to seek genetic counselling to understand the potential risks you and your family are exposed to, and how to mitigate against them. Some of your clues could reveal illnesses that are prevalent in your family. This inquiry into your family history should focus on both parents.
2. Results Can Help You Plan Ahead
You might want to go for genetic DNA testing if you are concerned about hereditary diseases, or if you are planning to have a baby. You and your partner may want to go for a carrier-screening test for useful insights before conceiving. A carrier screen can identify over 100 rare genetic diseases. These include spinal muscular atrophy, Hurler syndrome, Wilson’s disease, and cystic fibrosis. A number of screened diseases can be disempowered with nutritional changes and early interventions at birth.
Knowing what you are predisposed to also helps you prepare and adjust. For instance, if the test establishes you are predisposed to a certain type of cancer, you can make lifestyle changes and take medications that lower your risk of contracting cancer.
3. Genetic Diseases Carriers Are Often Healthy
Most genetic diseases carriers are healthy individuals who can nonetheless pass the disease risk to generations to come. Among diseases that can be passed on by healthy carriers include spinal muscular atrophy and cystic fibrosis. In some cancers such as hereditary colon cancer, a carrier is likely to develop cancer when they are young.
They are also likely to pass it on. Many people carry rare diseases without knowing it until they are tested. It is also common for a genetic disease to skip generations without manifesting itself. This is true for recessive diseases, which only manifest if both partners have the same disease gene.
4. Genetic Counsellors Can Help You Deal with the Results
Genetic counsellors understand the intricacies surrounding DNA testing. They can counsel you depending on your life goals, values, experiences, and your desire to understand your family history. Your decision to go for genetic testing is not a light one. Getting a qualified counsellor to give you the merits and demerits of taking such a test is highly useful. The counsellor will most likely seek to understand why you want to know what you want to know and what you intend to do with the information once your genetic testing results are out.
5. Genetic Testing Is Affordable
The cost of taking a genetic test should be the least of your concerns. Besides the fact that it is highly affordable, it is usually covered by your medical insurance. We have come a long way from a few years ago when testing for genetic diseases used to be very costly. Today, courtesy of technological advances in DNA testing, you can test for a host of genetic diseases at relatively low prices. Besides, many medical insurance plans cover genetic testing to prevent disease onset and to qualify people seeking a medical cover.
Genetic testing has evolved over the years. Advancements in genetic testing have seen sophisticated technologies emerge, making it easy and cheaper to undertake a genetic test. Before taking one, understand exactly what it involves and be prepared to accept the results once you receive them.